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June 2, 2014

Pan Am sells rail track needed for marine terminal expansion

Photo / Tim Greenway Larus Isfeld, Eimskip USA's managing director, recently said connecting to the Pan Am rail lines is a critical element of the company's long-range plans for Portland and could lead to an expansion of business.

A key piece of land that had been owned by a railroad will become part of the International Marine Terminal in Portland, an official at Pan Am Railways said Monday.

Cynthia Scarano, executive vice president of the railway, told Mainebiz that Pan Am has sold the corridor of land and associated track to the Maine Department of Transportation to facilitate the expansion of the port.

Scarano did not disclose terms of the sale, which was first reported in the Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports weekly trade newsletter on Friday.

“It’s been an ongoing real estate transaction involving the state of Maine and another party in order to support a great idea [to expand the marine terminal],” she said, noting that Pan Am anticipates the expansion would increase its freight business out of Portland.

Nate Moulton, director of MDOT’s rail program, said the sale involves roughly five acres. He noted that under Maine statute the price and any other terms are confidential until nine months after the project’s completion.

“It’s a piece of the puzzle,” Moulton said, noting that the purchase of the track corridor removes one hurdle for the planned expansion of the International Marine Terminal that would extend its footprint to adjacent land west of the Casco Bay Bridge. MDOT’s long-term plans include extending the track and building a loading ramp to provide a direct link to the marine terminal, Moulton said, and would lower shipping costs for commercial customers of the Icelandic shipping company Eimskip, which moved its U.S. port of call to Portland from Virginia Beach last year

Larus Isfeld, managing director of Eimskip USA, told Mainebiz earlier this spring that connecting to the Pan Am rail lines is a critical element of the company’s long-range plans for Portland and could lead to at least a doubling of its container business in Maine.

The other hurdle is the ongoing eminent domain proceeding between Maine Port Authority and Phineas Sprague Jr. to take several acres of private land needed for the expansion. Sprague has said the process is not confrontational because he agrees the project is important to the port's economic viability, but he contests the value the state offered him for the land and is using the eminent domain process to challenge the state’s valuation for the contested property.

John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority, had not yet returned a phone call from Mainebiz seeking comment this morning.

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