From California to New York, seaports are cashing in on the peace dividend.
With the end of the Cold War and the downsizing of the military, the federal government is declaring valuable waterfront property surplus. Port authorities are lining up to receive hundreds of acres of prime land.And it's for free, as long as the ports maintain it for port-related activities in perpetuity.
The Southern California ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles and Port Hueneme were first out of the gate. To date, they are the only ports that have submitted applications to the Maritime Administration to convert Navy property to marine terminals.
Marad is also meeting with Oakland, Calif., New York-New Jersey and possibly Philadelphia to initiate the lengthy reuse process with those ports. Several years ago, Charleston, S.C., appeared to be the leading candidate for naval property reuse, but the process got bogged down in local politics and is in abeyance right now.
Tiny Port Hueneme, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles, will most likely be the first port to actually receive naval property and turn it into marine facilities.
''The base closes on April 30. We'd like to go ahead with it on May 1,'' said Kam Quarles, manager of marketing and trade-zone services.
Port Hueneme, which is scheduled to receive 25 of the 33 acres from a Navy laboratory that is closing, will increase the size of its port by 50 percent. Mr. Quarles said the port will develop the property to expand its core cargo operations, which include citrus exports and automobile imports.
Long Beach, the nation's largest containerport, will receive much more property and has big plans. The port is set to receive 130 acres at the former Long Beach Naval Station. The port plans to turn that property and the nearby Navy Mole, a long strip of land jutting out into the harbor, into a container terminal and on-dock rail transfer yard.
Rapidly growing China Ocean Shipping Co. is the likely candidate for the navy station property, although the neighboring Port of Los Angeles is trying to get Cosco to move into the terminal that American President Lines will vacate when its new 245-acre container terminal and on-dock railyard opens in 1997.
Long Beach may also acquire another 265 acres now occupied by a naval shipyard and supply depot. The community fought fiercely to keep the shipyard off the Pentagon's hit list, but without success, and the yard is scheduled to close next year. The port and the city are just now beginning to draw up a reuse plan for the shipyard.
Reuse plans are an integral part of the process of transferring military property to local authorities. Bill Aird, program manager, public port facility conveyance, at Marad, said the lengthy process is designed to get the entire community involved in converting former military property into productive civilian use.
Since most seaports need more land, and marine terminals create jobs and have a positive economic impact on a community, they are the preferred use for the property, Mr. Aird said. He emphasized that the process is long and involved, taking as much as two years and requiring approval by the local governing authority before Marad will sign off on it.
Long Beach provides an example of how to successfully complete the process. Geraldine Knatz, the port's director of planning, said the port worked with the city to draw up a detailed reuse plan for the naval station. Public meetings were held to discuss the plan. Like all ports receiving military property, Long Beach also has to fund certain facilities for the homeless, although they do not have to be on port property.
Ms. Knatz said the port would like to receive as much of the 265-acre naval shipyard and supply depot property as possible when they close, but realizing the importance of shipbuilding jobs, the port would work with the city to attract investors interested in turning part of the property into a privately operated shipyard. Several investors have expressed interest in a small ship repair facility.
Since investors have indicated they could only use a portion of the 265 acres at the far end of the property, the port may still get enough shipyard land adjacent to the 130-acre naval station to build a container terminal or terminals totaling about 400 acres.
The story of converting military property to port use is not such a happy one in Charleston.
''We're probably the best example of how not to do things,'' said Bernard Groseclose, the port's director of planning and development.
In mid-1993, Charleston's Navy facility was designated for closure. Local officials looked expectantly at receiving 1,500 acres, 500 of which would go to the port.
''It's a natural port facility,'' said Mr. Aird of Marad. The property includes 4.5 miles of shoreline and has immediate rail and highway access.
Mr. Groseclose said the port and local communities formed a committee and went through the entire reuse study process. They initiated the necessary environmental studies and then submitted a plan to Washington, which was favorably received.
''Then the effort basically fell apart,'' Mr. Groseclose said. The city of North Charleston, where the naval facility is located, found fault with the plan, expressing various concerns such as whether the plan would maximize job creation, Mr. Groseclose said.
A new reuse committee has been studying the issue for more than six months, although the future of the property as a port facility is uncertain. Mr. Groseclose said that in the meantime, the port has begun to develop 800 acres of property it has in another location. ''We're fortunate to have an option and can move ahead,'' he said.
The options for expanding port property in the ecologically sensitive San Francisco Bay are quite limited because landfill is prohibited there, so the Port of Oakland is working closely with the government and local community to acquire and develop surplus military property.
''This is very prime property,'' said Leo Brien, maritime director. Two large parcels of land are involved.
In the middle harbor, the port has already received 140 acres of a 400-acre naval supply center under special legislation passed two years ago. The Navy last year agreed to turn the rest of the property over to the port, and that could occur as early as next year.
Mr. Brien said the short-term plan is to use the property as is for cotton cargoes and staging containers, but the ultimate plan is to turn it into the ''largest and most efficient port rail facility in the United States.'' Mr. Brien said the property is ideal for development as an intermodal rail transfer yard. It would allow full trains to be worked as a unit, and the property has access from both ends.
The port also hopes to get the former Oakland Army Base in the outer harbor. That 350-acre property could be used for breakbulk and container facilities, Mr. Brien said. Oakland, like other port communities, must go through the lengthy reuse process before these projects become reality.
Marad is also working with other ports on potential land transfers. Los Angeles has submitted a formal application for a small piece of military property required for providing access to the APL facility under construction at this time.
On the East Coast, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey is working with local authorities to formulate a reuse plan for the 437-acre Military Ocean Terminal-Bayonne in Bayonne, N.J.
The process is still in its early stages, and other uses in addition to marine terminals are also being considered for the property, so the extent to which the port will benefit has not been determined yet, said Dan Maynard, port authority spokesman.
He said that the base is adjacent to an auto marine terminal and has a rail spur and highway access, so it certainly holds potential for port usage.
Mr. Aird of Marad said the only other port he is working with at this time is Philadelphia. He said a reuse committee has been in place for some time now to study potential uses for the naval station. ''Philadelphia seems to be leaning toward not developing it into a port facility,'' he said.
Cargo movements at seaports ebb and flow with the economy, but over the long term, the curve is normally up, especially at major load centers. Therefore, when prime waterfront property becomes available free of charge, most ports think like Long Beach.
''Our position is, we'll take all of it we can get,'' Ms. Knatz said.