A Spirited Debate

This report was in the Star News on November 9th. It shows how the DOT, the Maritime Advisory Council and all container port officials are looking at things.

“Consultants evaluating North Carolina’s future in the shipping industry are investigating six potential deepwater port sites, including three on Southeastern North Carolina.

“One possibility is expanding the capacity of the Port of Wilmington through a new berth and other improvements. The state is also considering two sites on the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County for a new container facility – the 600 acres near Southport long considered by the N.C. State Ports Authority and a 2,200-acre tract east of N.C. 133 on the west bank of the river.

“Other options include a new terminal on Radio Island across from the Port of Morehead City, or on properties at Bonner Bay or Parch Corn Bay on the Pamlico Sound.

“Consultants working with the DOT on a $ 2 million maritime study briefed members of the Maritime Advisory Council about potential sites at a meeting Wednesday at the DOT headquarters in Raleigh.

“They said it was difficult to find locations in North Carolina that offer ocean access and adequate protection from wind and wave action, while avoiding military property and sensitive environmental lands, such as national parks and refuge areas.

“Site identification is part of the ongoing N.C. Maritime Strategy study commissioned by the DOT to examine the state’s role in the shipping industry. Ultimately, the study is expected to weigh in on whether the state should construct a new deepwater shipping container terminal capable of attracting some of the largest cargo vessels, and if so, where.

“It became clear Wednesday that talks about upgrading port infrastructure are escalating and that opponents of a new port in Brunswick County aren’t out of the woods. State officials put the proposed N.C. International Terminal project in Southport on indefinite hold last year amid crumbling political support and tight budget times. But the concept is re-emerging.

“‘It’s quite apparent from the material we’ve seen today that NCIT is very much alive,’ said Mike Rice, of Save the Cape, a group formed in part to oppose a port in Southport.

“The DOT consultants have just begun analyzing details of the individual sites, including dredging and construction costs, land and water access issues, environmental impacts, capacity constraints and other factors.

“No site has been ruled out, and each has pros and cons. A draft study is expected to be complete within the next two months, with a final report in the first quarter of 2012.

“The consultants discussed the possibility of expanding the Port of Wilmington, but questions quickly arose about whether the shipping channel to it could be deepened because of bedrock and other issues. Without deepening the channel, beyond 42 feet, Wilmington wouldn’t be able to accommodate larger vessels seen as the future of the global shipping industry, especially with the Panama Canal expansion scheduled for completion in 2014.

“‘If we don’t build for the big ships, we’re wasting our money,’ said Glenn Carlson, Ports Authority chief commercial officer.

“Joy Bhadury, associate dean of graduate studies and research at the Bryan School of Business and Economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, cautioned against making judgments about the best option until the study is complete. But there is risk in doing too little or too much, he said.

“Building or expanding a facility without the ability to handle larger ships could put North Carolina out of the shipping business in 30 to 40 years, he said.

“‘Will we become VHS in a world that has moved on to iPod”‘ Bhadury said. ‘That is my biggest concern.’

“But Bhadury said there is also risk in making a huge investment in a new port that doesn’t provide an appropriate return to the state.

“Each extreme, he said, ‘needs to be avoided,’

“Meanwhile, Rachel Vandenberg, an AECOM vice president and maritime study project manager, said consultants met with Progress Energy Officials to discuss concerns about the possibility that a deepwater port could be built adjacent to the Brunswick Nuclear Plant near Southport.

“Vandenberg said Progress Energy wouldn’t have a position on the NCIT proposal until all issues are vetted and resolved. She said the company’s concerns include the security of the nuclear plant related to the berthing and storage of containers, as well as impacts on the plant’s evacuation plans.

“‘There are issues,’ Vandenberg said, ‘if that site were to go forward that would have to be addressed in a more specific manner with Progress Energy.'” –

All the other East Coast ports are looking for funding, aren’t they? Well, “monkey see, monkey do”.

We’re flat on our backs. People are jobless and broke. Imports have dramatically declined because average Americans can no longer afford to buy anything. The situation is disastrous yet port officials and sundry maritime officials and consultants insist upon pushing for the construction of new and bigger container terminals – and of course, the sweetheart dredging programs that will enable phantom megaships to deliver millions of phantom TEUs to millions of phantom U.S. shoppers.

But the new Panama Canal will make all this possible, won’t it? Well, won’t it?