50-year Wilmington port lease to Gulftainer gets a green light

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Gulftainer says the Khorfakkan container terminal in the United Arab Emirates is one of the world's most efficient terminals. The UAE company has been selected to operate the Port of Wilmington, Del., for 50 years by the state-owned Diamond State Port Corp. (Gulftainer Co. Ltd.)

A joint Delaware legislative committee on Thursday unanimously endorsed a 50-year lease of Wilmington’s port to Gulftainer Group, a Mideastern port operator that promised to invest $584 million to improve the existing port and to build a new deepwater terminal in Edgemoor.

Six senators and six representatives on the Joint Committee on Capital Improvements, meeting in Dover, recommended the full General Assembly approve the lease, although several lawmakers said they had read only a summary of the contract terms, and not the 30-page term sheet approved this month by the Diamond State Port Corp.

Jeffrey Bullock, Delaware’s secretary of state and chairman of state-owned port corporation, said he would provide more details to legislators confidentially, but he declined to disclose the term sheet or contract publicly because they contain “some commercially sensitive aspects.”

Gulftainer, a subsidiary of Crescent Enterprises in the United Arab Emirates, operates 13 ports worldwide, including Port Canaveral in Florida. The new Wilmington port terminal is expected to start operations in 2023.

“This expansion agreement will result in significant new investment that will allow the port to create new jobs and compete over the long term,” Gov. John Carney said in a statement Thursday. He encouraged the full General Assembly to approve the deal.

The agreement also faces examination by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

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Most of Gulftainer’s promised $584 million in investment in the Port of Wilmington would convert the closed Edgemoor chemical plant into a marine terminal.