Maher loses bid to cut its NY-NJ lease costs

Maher loses bid to cut its NY-NJ lease costs

The largest container terminal operator in the Port of New York and New Jersey has lost another bid to reduce the fees it must pay to the port authority.

A federal judge dismissed Maher Terminals’ claim that it was forced to pay excessive and discriminatory fees based on the number of containers moving through the 445-acre terminal that Maher leases from the port authority.

U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty rejected Maher’s claim that a per-container fee in Maher’s lease agreement violated the Constitution’s tonnage clause, which prohibits a state from assessing charges on vessels entering, trading in, or lying in port.

He also dismissed the company’s claim that the port authority was charging the terminal more than necessary to support costs of deepening port channels, and that the fees were an improper levy on waterborne commerce.

Maher has been waging a broad but so far unsuccessful fight to reduce lease-related costs at its New York-New Jersey terminal. Deutsche Bank AG recently put Maher up for sale after writing down most of the reported $2.3 billion the German bank paid to buy the terminal operator in 2007.

Earlier this year, a Federal Maritime Commission administrative law judge rejected Maher’s claim that the port authority illegally refused to provide lease terms similar to those negotiated with the adjacent APM Terminals facility. Maher plans to appeal that decision to the full FMC.

A separate Maher complaint pending before the FMC accuses the port authority of discriminating in favor of competing New York-New Jersey terminals.

Among other things, the complaint cited the agency’s 2009 lease that allowed Port Newark Container Terminal to expand after securing regular port calls by Mediterranean Shipping Co., which had been Maher’s largest customer.

Maher also complained that the port refused to consider Maher as a potential developer of a Bayonne, New Jersey, site next to Global Terminals. The site was leased to Global, which expanded into it by developing a semi-automated terminal that opened this year.

Contact Joseph Bonney at jbonney@joc.com and follow him on Twitter: @josephbonney.