Several major ship lines and some fruit and car importers are discussing using the vacant Howland Hook Terminal in Staten Island, port officials say.
A terminal operator also is discussing the possibility of leasing Howland
Hook, which has sat idle since United States Lines collapsed last November into Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code.Brendan O'Malley, assistant director of the port department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said the port is discussing leasing the terminal to Ceres Terminals Inc.
Ceres, a major stevedore based in Chicago, operates in 38 ports in the United States and Canada but has no significant operations in the New York region.
Officials from Ceres Terminals declined to comment. Earlier this year, Ceres was close to an agreement with the port authority on taking over the terminal, but the two sides were unable to work out details.
Ceres Terminals is reportedly the only terminal operator interested in the Howland Hook Terminal, which was operated for 13 years by USL. Howland Hook is owned by New York City and leased to the port authority under a 30-year contract.
The port authority's first choice is to find a container operator for the terminal. Officials are negotiating with several major ship lines that would use part of the terminal, Mr. O'Malley said. No one steamship line would want a terminal operator that big," he said. He declined to specify which lines are interested.
If container operators can't be found, the port authority would seek fruit operators and automobile importers that would use it as for cargo handling, Mr. O'Malley said.
We're making good progress. There are no deals yet," Mr. O'Malley said.
Time isn't as important as getting the right fit," said Arnold Davis, manager of the authority's port promotion division.
One aim is to attract new cargo that wouldn't take business from shipping lines already handling cargo in the New York region, port officials said.
It would be good if a tenant comes in with business from outside the port, but I don't know if that will happen," Mr. O'Malley said.
Howland Hook, which covers 187 acres, can handle about 180,000 containers annually. Christos N. Kritikos, president and chief executive of Ceres Terminals, has said the company was interested in operating in the New York region.
The port authority's lease with the city, signed in early 1985, calls for the agency to spend $87 million at Howland Hook for capital improvements.
Under the contract, the port authority has reportedly agreed to continue paying $1.2 million quarterly in rent over the next two years even though it has no tenant.
The halt in USL's operations and the vacancy created in Howland Hook has meant less work for longshoremen on the New York side of the harbor, who generally don't work at New Jersey docks. By contract, New York longshoremen are guaranteed a minimum annual income of more than $30,000.