Majority of Virginia Maritime Association members oppose change in managementAugust 31, 2012 6:00 AM
by Elizabeth Cooper
There’s plenty of skepticism about the prospect of turning over Virginia’s port operations to APM Terminals. Besides shippers and port-related businesses who have written to state officials to protest the proposed change, nearly three-quarters of respondents to a survey conducted by the Virginia Maritime Association gave a thumb’s down to APM’s unsolicited bid. The Norfolk-based association is an advocacy group for the area’s maritime industry that represents more than 400 companies.
According to its survey, 71 percent of the respondents said they were opposed to the change in management, while 15 percent were in favor, and 13 percent said they needed additional information. Many of those against the change cited APM’s affiliation with global shipping giant Maersk Lines, a direct competitor of many of the shipping lines that use the port, noting that the connection would create a monopoly at the expense of other port customers.
Forty-eight percent believe their businesses would be negatively impacted if APM oversees the port, while 50 percent said that a state-controlled, nonprofit firm would be the best operating model for the port’s long-term interests. Several respondents questioned the state’s rush to decide who will run the port. APM would like to take over operations in early January.
The maritime association presented the survey results to the Virginia Port Authority’s board during its July meeting. Meanwhile, a new group, the Coalition for Virginia’s Port, was formed to ensure that the proposal process results in an outcome that will best serve the interests of all port businesses. To support its efforts, the group launched a website, http://www.coalitionforvirginiasport.org.
In response to stakeholders’ concerns, APM revised its bid in late July to include provisions that would preclude partiality. APM vowed to honor all contracts between Virginia International Terminals and its customers in effect as of April 4, when APM submitted its proposal to run the port. The company also promised to set up a market-based tariff offering “competitive prices and services” and to install the Virginia Port Authority to independently oversee port operations.
APM Terminals Americas President Eric Sisco contends that his company is vested in ensuring the port is successful for all customers. “This will not be a monopoly,” he says. “We have intense competition for business done not only at the Port of Virginia but we compete for business done elsewhere.”
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