Maersk gets approval for Va. terminal

Maersk gets approval for Va. terminal

The Army Corps of Engineers has announced it will sign a notice of intent to issue a provisional permit to APM Terminals to construct and operate a 560-acre marine container terminal along the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth, Va.

The decision comes on the heels of a Corps report that raised serious concerns about a Virginia Port Authority plan to expand Craney Island for construction of a marine terminal there.

The decision came after the Corps said that A.P. Moller, parent company of APM and Maersk Sealand, submitted a larger mitigation package for review that addressed the environmental impact of the project, totaling $6.5 million, instead of the initial figure of $1 million. The Corps said the proposed mitigation consists of: creation of 17 acres of on-site tidal marsh; $770,000 for creation of 14 acres of non-tidal wetlands; $300,000 for two acres of three-dimensional oyster reefs; and $5 million for sediment remediation to created an enhanced sea-bottom habitat.

The Corps announced last week it will not support the Virginia Port Authority's plans for expansion on Craney Island as presently constituted. The Virginia Port Authority had hoped to build a marine terminal there, to join their other facilities in Norfolk, Newport News, and Portsmouth.

The Corps, in a July 30 letter to J. Robert Bray, executive director of the VPA, raised navigational and environmental concerns over the project.

"While there is no doubt that the state faces serious port capacity challenges, the combined economic, environmental, and engineering issues with regard to proposed eastward expansion for a port facility supported only very limited federal participation," said Col. David L. Hansen, District Engineer for the Corps in Norfolk.

A key factor was that the Corps said that proposed channel deepening in Norfolk Harbor to 55 feet is not justifiable in the immediate future, thus there was no need for the dredged material placement area that was key to the Island expansion plans. The Corps said it could justify spending only $7.7 million of the total construction cost of $277 million. The total cost of the project, including terminal construction, has been estimated at $1.5 billion.

"We have performed several hydrodynamic and navigation studies focused on the eastward port expansion," Hansen said in the letter. "Even with the receipt of these studies, I am extremely concerned about the safety aspects and the functional viability of constructing the associated berths so close to the existing Federally maintained navigation channel."

Hansen also express concerned about the environmental impact of the project, most particularly on the Elizabeth River.

"From an environmental perspective, there appears to be major obstacles to overcome for the eastward port to be constructed, and therefore I consider it to be speculative," Hansen said in the letter.

-- Eugene Gilligan is editor of Shipping Digest.