Breakdown of the improvements
Here's how the $293 million (plus money for engineering and design costs) will be spent:
Packer terminal is getting four new "post Panamax" container cranes, at $12.5 million each. They are comparable to cranes in the world's largest seaports. Warehouses on dock will be demolished with new ones built off site to free up acreage for containers. Ship berths will be dredged deeper to 45 feet to match the 45-foot channel depth in Delaware.
Improvements also include new "fenders" and crane rail to handle bigger ships, updating the electrical grid in the terminal, and converting two older diesel cranes to electric. The port is negotiating to buy the old Food Distribution Center site in South Philadelphia to build warehouses.
Construction to strengthen the wharf to handle the larger cranes is out to bid. Work will begin in July and completed in October when the first two cranes arrive from China. Why China? The United States doesn't build cranes. "Every major port in the world has threse cranes," said Jeff Theobald, the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority's chief executive officer.
Holt, the Packer terminal operator, will buy one of the four cranes, contribute 40 privately-owned acres known as the "Publicker site," and prepare the area for containers, Theobald said.
The port's automobile-handling operation will get 155 paved and fenced acres at the Southport site. An old seaplane hangar will be renovated into a second auto-processing facility to complement the auto-processing operation now at the Pier 98 Annex.
Hyundai and Kia signed a 15-year lease to stay in Philadelphia, and plan to increase autos coming from South Korea from 155,000 to 350,000 annually. The port authority can take back land at Southport to use for other cargoes, if container volumes surge, or if autos are down.
The logistics firm for Hyundai and Kia is considering shipping Kia and Hyundai autos that now go to Vancouver, British Columbia, and by rail to eastern Canada to Philadelphia instead "and rail them from here to eastern Canada," Theobald said. The firm is also looking at export opportunities to bring U.S. cars from the Midwest through Philadelphia on the same ships that bring the car imports. Today the ships leave empty.
Tioga Marine terminal
Tioga Marine Terminal will get $12 million to increase warehouse capacity for handling wood pulp and other cargoes, add rail track and a loading-dock canopy, and buy a new mobile harbor crane.
Non-containerized cargo, such as wood pulp, plywood and steel, is expected to increase by 21 percent at Tioga.
Fibria Celulose, the world's largest producer of eucalyptus pulp, sends tons of pulp annually from Brazil to Tioga, where it goes by rail and truck to paper manufacturers in Pennsylvania, such as Kimberly-Clark in Chester and Procter & Gamble in Mehoopany, to make paper towels, bathroom tissue, and diapers.
In 2014, Fibria made Tioga its Northeast U.S. distribution center, and a second pulp customer, CMPC Celulosa from Chile, is now shipping to Tioga.
Robert Palaima, president of Delaware River Stevedores, the terminal operator, said other wood-pulp producers are interested in shipping pulp in combination with other cargoes. Palaima said he is talking to port officials about "an alternative vision for roughly the same amount of money" to accommodate some "new opportunities coming our way."
"Whatever is done is going to be good for us and result in good opportunities for our work force," Palaima said. "The improvements at Tioga will result in significant job increases — as much as an 18 percent to 20 percent increase in International Longshoremen Association (ILA) man hours."
— Linda Loyd