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$50 Million Federal Grant Will Help Modernize Delaware Port

Facility Will Be Able to Handle Larger Panamax Vessels and Have a Larger Footprint for Cargo Storage

Delaware officials announced a $50 million federal grant to help pay for a massive container terminal expansion project to enable the century-old Port of Wilmington to handle larger Panamax vessels and have a larger footprint for cargo storage.

“For decades, jobs at the Port of Wilmington have been a gateway into the middle class for thousands of workers and their families — the kind of jobs our state and country were built on. This successful grant from the Port Infrastructure Development Program will help make the planned Edgemoor expansion a reality and bring new good-paying, full-time union jobs to Wilmington and the region,” Gov. John Carney said recently.

The PIDP is a discretionary grant program, funded through the bipartisan infrastructure law and administered by the U.S. Maritime Administration, that grants federal dollars for projects improving the safety, efficiency or reliability of cargo movements in ports.

The Edgemoor terminal expansion project plan includes building a container yard featuring all-electric operations and a new truck gate to provide new cargo capacity, enhance cargo resiliency, reduce emissions, improve safety and add capacity to the Port of Wilmington.

Carney made the announcement of the U.S. Department of Transportation grant to Diamond State Port Corp. for the Port of Wilmington’s Edgemoor terminal expansion along with Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, all Democrats.

“These federal dollars will expand the port’s capacity to export and import more goods through our state all while reducing emissions, growing our economy, and creating good-paying jobs at the same time,” Blunt Rochester said.

Last year, Carper, Coons and Blunt Rochester helped secure $9.2 million for operations and maintenance work on the Wilmington Harbor, including a new management plan to support the port’s expansion to the Edgemoor terminal.

The Port of Wilmington is a full-service, deep-water port and marine terminal strategically located on 308 acres at the confluence of the Delaware and Christina rivers with access to Interstate 95 and I-295 to major north and East Coast markets. It is owned by the Diamond State Port Corp. and operated by Enstructure, a marine terminal and logistics company.

For several years, state officials have backed a plan to enhance the port by building a new 1.2 million-TEU container facility at the former titanium dioxide production facility, demolished and sold to Diamond State in 2017. Other additions would include a 2,600-foot-long wharf supported by piles, dredging the berth and access channel to a 45-foot draft, installing a bulkhead along 3,200 feet of shoreline and creating 240,000 square feet of reefer space.

According to a Delaware 2022 State Freight Plan, adopted in December, the Edgemoor terminal project was estimated in 2020 to cost $525 million, with the largest capital outlays earmarked for cranes and yard equipment ($127.8 million), berth structure work ($126.4 million) and civil infrastructure ($117.7 million). Since then, the total project cost has been raised to $600 million.

“The Port of Wilmington supports more than 19,000 jobs, and the Edgemoor terminal expansion will fuel considerable economic growth for Delaware and our region,” said Carper, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee and a strong supporter of the port’s expansion. “Edgemoor’s plans include improved safety and emissions, which is a win-win for the folks who work and live there. This major investment from the Department of Transportation is a giant step forward for the Port of Wilmington’s plans for the future, and it is essential to keeping our port competitive and supporting good-paying jobs in our region now and for generations to come.”

The port, which became 100 years old this year, is visited by 400 ships annually and handles more than 6 million tons a year. A 2020 state environmental assessment report noted that Delaware River ports need to be deeper to handle larger New Panamax vessels.

“In addition to the relatively shallow navigation channel in the Christina River, the land-based configuration of the Port of Wilmington constrains capacity,” the report stated. “Currently, no ports in the state of Delaware are capable of accepting New Panamax vessels.”

Because the Port of Wilmington berths for handling containerized cargoes currently are maintained at a depth of 38 feet, container vessels bound for Delaware ports “need to be light-loaded (loaded at a reduced capacity) or lightened prior to arrival at the port,” the report added.

The solution is to have ports able to accept the larger vessels by having 45-foot or greater drafts. In addition, the Port of Wilmington is now facing another constraint with inadequate backland storage capacity to meet projected demand, which the Edgemoor terminal expansion would address.

The port’s freight tonnage primarily consists of containerized goods (33%), dry bulk and breakbulk goods (32%), liquid bulk shipments (29%), and remaining roll-on/roll-off/general cargo.

Secretary of State Jeff Bullock, also chairman of Diamond State Port Corp, said, “The Port of Wilmington is a vital economic engine for Delaware, and this federal support will help make it stronger in the future. We will work with the Edgemoor community, the port operator, Enstructure and our partners in organized labor to make sure we succeed.”

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