Seatrade Maritime is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Gulftainer waits on Florida rail link to achieve full potential in Canaveral

Gulftainer waits on Florida rail link to achieve full potential in Canaveral
Gulftainer’s Canaveral facility in Florida will only achieve its full potential if the US authorities approve a railway link connecting it to the rest of the State, its top official tells Seatrade Maritime News.

“In the first year, we are hoping to generate 50,000 teu [at Canaveral Cargo Terminal (CCT)]. We will steadily build that up over the next five years to 750,000 teu. It depends on what is happening with the port,” said Peter Richards, md of the UAE’s Gulftainer, who has spent most of the past year developing new business in US.

“If they do decide to proceed with a rail connection, Port Canaveral will become a major import-export gateway,” he said.

Richards conceded that if a decision was made against installing a rail link, the port’s maximum throughput would be unlikely to exceed recent official estimates of around 175,000 teu a year in the medium-long term. “If the local authority decides on Canaveral being a regional port, I am sure the maximum will be able to be achieved,” he said.

Clearly, subsidiary Gulftainer US (GT USA) would not have undertaken its investment at CCT without a degree of confidence that a rail link would be approved. Richards confirmed that GT USA had not yet spent the entire $100m amount it committed to investing to prepare the port for operations.

“No, it hasn’t spent that amount to date. That again depends now on the port authority and local community deciding on whether to establish a regional or countrywide gateway,” he said.

“The $100m investment is based on 750,000 teu being handled, involving new cranes, rubber-tyred gantries and operating equipment. If the rail connection is not going ahead, and Port Canaveral retains a presence as a regional hub, then the investment is not for that amount.

“I would hope in my heart that they [the local authorities] could find an environmentally sound way to bring the rail link into the port. This would be a boost to the Port and local community. It needs people to sit down discuss things reasonably and find a solution [suitable] to all the parties.”

One of the rail plans centres around a spur heading north from the port’s North Cargo Area. “The Canaveral Port Authority plans to file a request with the Surface Transportation Board for authority to construct and operate approximately 11 miles of new rail line to Port Canaveral in Brevard County, Florida,” said the website of the Port Canaveral Rail Extension.

GT USA is also keen for port entry-channel works to be completed. “They are already under way, and should be taking us down to 55ft (16.8m) within next five years, probably allowing 12,000-13,000 teu vessels to enter port. Channel draught will be 43ft by December 2015,” he said.

GT USA won a 35-year concession in June 2014 to operate at CCT. Terminal operations have not yet begun, and the site preparation works are still in process. GT USA laid on an opening ceremony June 12, as this was “a convenient timing,” he said, adding the facility would open [in June].

“All the works are done and the berth is complete. The cranes are here. The first 20 acres of land are tarmacked and covered, and prepared to take cargo,” he said.

In the past year, GT USA had had to follow through on various processes, he said, including the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US. “They reviewed Gulftainer and its projected operations, and declared us as not under their umbrella, [but] as purely a lease agreement from the port authority,” Richards said.

“Then authorisation was required from the relevant administrations here in the State of Florida to operate as a stevedore in Canaveral.”

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Richards said: “This new state-of-the-art facility is ready to get to work with two berths, two cranes and 20 acres of land already developed. In Gulftainer's partnership with the Canaveral Port Authority, it is our policy to partner with the entire community and we hope to make this a world-class container terminal servicing the Florida region, the nation and beyond.”

Gulftainer is speaking to several international shipping lines about calling CCT. “We are talking to CMA-CGM, UASC, China Shipping, APL, Hamburg Sud; we are also talking to the regional shipping lines that frequent the Caribbean and South America.”

When asked, Richards did not believe the arrival of Gulftainer to manage and operate a US port should be seen as a security concern by US citizens. In terms of ‘allaying fears,’ he said: “I don’t think it falls on any one shoulder in particular. Once people get to know us, I am sure they will be very happy with what we are going to do.

“We are just an international port operating company preparing to take our first step in the US port and logistics market. I don’t expect Canaveral to be the last port opportunity Gulftainer looks at.”