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May 23, 2018

Second crane enhances International Marine Terminal's growth opportunities

Photo / Renee Cordes
Photo / Renee Cordes
Jonathan Nass, deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation, talks about the second crane that will be coming to the International Marine Terminal in Portland.

Five years after Icelandic-owned Eimskip USA brought container shipping back to Portland, state officials are excited about a second crane due to arrive in June.

"It's going to alter the skyline of Portland," said Jonathan Nass, deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation, in an interview at the International Marine Terminal.

Describing the new equipment as "awesome" and "gorgeous," Nass said it is needed with Eimskip now calling weekly in Portland, a 45% increase in frequency.

"The deal was made to expeditiously get a second crane," Nass said, explaining that "having one crane means you have a single point of failure."

Crane built in German

Courtesy / Maine Department of Transportation
Courtesy / Maine Department of Transportation
Photos of the crane under construction in Rostock, Germany.

Some $3.2 million in state bond funds will be used to pay for the new crane, which has been built by Swiss-owned Liebherr Group and was recently inspected in Rostock, Germany, by Matthew Burns, MDOT's director of ports and marine transportation and acting executive director of the Maine Port Authority. MDOT will take possession of the new equipment upon its arrival at the dock and later transfer ownership to the Maine Port Authority.

Like the crane that's there now, Nass said the new one will be mobile, which is better suited to a small port like Portland as business grows and expands the Portland brand.

"Small ports in the industry are not doing well," Nass said, "so we're the anomaly in this, and it is in large degree because we have such a niche market in the North Atlantic."

To strengthen that niche, Portland has an alliance with a handful of other ports — including Halifax, Canada, and Tromso, Norway — that Nass would like to see expanded to 10 to 12 ports.

The IMT will be a beehive of activity this summer with various infrastructure improvement projects funded from a combination of federal money and state bond funds. They include enhancement of the rail track by Gorham's Shaw Brothers Construction Inc. and construction of a new maintenance and operations center by Great Falls Construction Inc., also of Gorham, which won the bid this week for $3.8 million. Pier work is also planned but has not yet been awarded.

There are also plans to purchase another new crane in another couple of years to replace the existing one that Nass guesses may be around 20 years old. That would bring the total bill for everything but the state-funded crane arriving in June to around $20 milion.

Cold storage update

And what about Americold's long-awaited waterfront cold-storage facility?

"It won't be built this summer," Nass said, "but we are actively working on it [and] we feel very good about it. Yes, it will happen one way or another."

He also said that the MDOT is still in talks with Americold but has a backup plan if needed.

"If that one doesn't work out for whatever reason, we know there are a lot of options to do it," he said, adding that "it's not beyond the realm of possibilities we do it ourselves, or some partnership."

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