Gulftainer subsidiary wins 50-year US port concession

Sharjah-based ports operator plans to invest $580m in the Port of Willmington, Delaware

Sharjah-based Gulftainer, part of Sharjah-based Crescent Enterprises which is headed up by Badr Jafar, said it had won a 50-year concession to operate and develop the Port of Willmington in the US State of Delaware. Photo Courtesy: Gulftainer

Gulftainer, a Sharjah-based ports operator and part of UAE conglomerate Crescent Enterprises, said its subsidiary GT USA has won exclusive rights to operate and develop a port in the US State of Delaware, subject to approvals.

Under the deal with Diamond State Port Corporation, GT USA will manage the Port of Willmington for 50 years, including overseeing a planned infrastructure upgrade of the port’s cargo facilities. Gulftainer plans to invest $580 million in the port over the next nine years, it said in a statement. The investment includes approximately $410m for a new 1.2 million twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) container facility at US energy firm DuPont’s former Edgemoor site, which was acquired by the Diamond State Port Corporation in 2016. The company also plans to develop all the cargo terminals and enhance productivity of the port.

“We hope to see significant impact to the state’s revenue stream with the planned injection of $580 million investment into the cargo facilities within the city of Wilmington,” said John Carney, the Governor of Delaware, in a statement to media. “This massive infrastructure upgrade will have a knock-on effect to the logistics sector of the entire East coast.”

Founded in 1976 Gulftainer is the second largest ports operator in the UAE after Dubai-based DP World. The company operates 8 terminals in the Middle East with facilities in Iraq, Brazil, Russia, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, according to its website. It also operates freight and transport services at inland container depots and logistics cities across international territories, including Pakistan and Turkey. Gulftainer is private and does not disclose financials but said last year it handled more than 6 million TEUs across its global portfolio of terminals in 2016.


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Gulftainer’s Port of Willmington proposal also includes a plan to establish a marine training institute to boost local career aspirations in the maritime and port operation industries, said Mr Carney.

The agreement gives Gulftainer access to one of the most strategically located marine ports in the US, located four hours from the Atlantic Ocean.

GT USA’s concession includes the full management and development of the port’s existing container volumes of 350,000 TEUs per year, which is forecast to more than double in the years to come as a result, according to Gulftrainer.

The agreement follows over a year of negotiations and marks Gulftainer’s next phase of expansion in the US. GT USA already has a 35-year concession deal, signed in 2015, to operate the Canaveral Cargo Terminal in Port Canaveral, Florida.

The company has also provided services to the US space industry, including contracts with SpaceX and Blue Origin.

“Gulftainer looks forward to be given the opportunity to work closely with the State of Delaware authorities to achieve significant enhancement across the board, from infrastructure development and capacity building to creating a sustainable source of employment and overall economic growth," said Badr Jafar, chairman of Gulftainer and chief executive of Crescent Enterprises. "We are keen to position Wilmington as the major gateway port to the US Mid-Atlantic states.”

The terms of the deal are subject to approval by the Diamond State Port Corporation Board and Delaware General Assembly within the next month, followed by a formal review by the Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States.

Wilmington Port started operations in 1923 as the first major port on the Delaware River. It is the top North American port for imports of fresh fruit into the US, and has the largest dockside cold storage facility in the state of Delaware.

DP World is also expanding outside the Middle East, with new operations across Africa and Asia as the UAE looks to logistics and maritime operations as one sector with the potential to fuel economic growth.

DP World said it February it handled 10.1 per cent more in gross container volumes on a reported basis last year - 70.1 million TEUs - due to an uptick in global trade.