Sixteen companies have expressed interest in all or part of about 200 vacant acres known as Southport, at the eastern end of the Navy Yard in South Philadelphia.
They include energy companies, marine terminal operators, auto processors, and multipurpose terminal operators with ideas for the maritime property, south of the Walt Whitman Bridge on the Delaware River.
The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA) said Tuesday that it would evaluate the responses and make recommendations to its board, which will have the final say.
Southport is three waterfront parcels: 119 acres referred to as Southport Marine Terminal; 75 acres known as Southport West Terminal; and the Pier 124 "north berth," a 1,132-foot-long finger pier.
"We've been well aware of the potential for Southport for quite some time, and it's now clear that we weren't alone in that assessment," said PRPA chairman Charles Kopp. "The breadth and quality of the proposals make us very optimistic about Southport's future."
Key to the authority's assessment will be job creation and economic activity. The preference will be a firm with a solid business plan, rather than one holding land for eventual development.
"Our goal is to bring jobs and economic activity to the region," Kopp said. "We want plans that will produce jobs in the near future."
Among those expressing interest was Philadelphia Energy Solutions, operator of the former Sunoco refinery, which wants to develop an energy port with a wharf to handle oil tankers.
The 16 also include marine terminal operator John Brown Jr., who runs a paper-import business from piers in South Philadelphia, and Leo and Tom Holt Jr., whose family runs the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia and owns Gloucester Terminals L.L.C. in Gloucester City.
The other 13 offering proposals by Friday's deadline were: Atlantic Realty; Global Auto Processing Services; Katoen Natie Group; Liberty Property Trust; MarkWest Energy Partners; OHL Infrastructure Inc.; Walsh Construction; Anthony Bruttaniti, representing Philadelphia Global Trade Center L.L.C.; Liberty Energy Trust; LNG America; Navigator Gas L.L.C.; T. Parker Host; and WesPac Midstream L.L.C.
Brown, on behalf of Penn City Investments & Affiliated Cos., said his proposal called for Southport as a marine terminal operation for container and break-bulk-style shipping. Break-bulk cargo is shipped on pallets, in barrels, drums, boxes, or bags.
Tom Holt of Holt Logistics Corp. said Tuesday that Southport was "a unique opportunity to jump-start investment in two industries, both the port industrial and energy."
He said he supported creating Southport as an energy hub, while "at the same time, we support the port industrial."
Currently, the Packer terminal "is at capacity; it's full," Holt said. "We are looking for ways to grow." His firm's proposal envisions the phased development of the existing marine terminal into the Navy Yard.
Brown in late August hired Vincent J. Fumo, the former state senator and a longtime family friend, to advise him after, Brown said, he learned that terminal competitor Holt Logistics may have talked with Philadelphia Energy Solutions about teaming up to run Southport without a public bid process. The head of Philadelphia Energy Solutions has denied that any private deal was sought.
On Oct. 1, the PRPA issued a "request for expressions of interest," inviting development concepts from the maritime-industrial community.
The International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) would like a marine terminal to support traditional stevedoring jobs on at least some of the Southport land. None of the 16 firms submitting proposals is a steamship company.
BY THE NUMBERS
Southport is three waterfront parcels:
Referred to as Southport Marine Terminal.
Known as Southport West Terminal.
Length of a finger pier known as Pier 124 "north berth."