The Port of Wilmington madeits way into a list of the nation’s top ports.
The Power Port ranking of ranked Wilmington 50thon a list of the same number, published by Global Trade Magazine.
Wilmington was slightly behind the Port of San Juan in Puerto Rico and the Port of Anacortes in the state of Washington with annual tonnage of more than 10.5 million.
The Port of Houston, with 20 times more tonnage than Wilmington ranked first.
The port, operated by the State of Delaware and for many years by the city,has faced its share of challengesover the years as the state struggled with upkeep and aggressive bids to take away key shippers.
Wilmington, perhaps best known as a top destination for bananas, saw nearby ports vie for that business.
The efforts were fought off, but the state had to dig deep in paying for improvements, such as the massive cranes needed to load and unload cargo.
The port has labored under the disadvantage of being on the Christina River, with only a small portion along the Delaware River.
The state and the state-owned corporation running the place, Diamond State Port Corp. entered into a deal that calls for Emirates-based Gulftainer to lease the port and invest upwards of $600 million in coming years.
The deal also calls forGulftainer to develop a container port along the Delaware River at the former Chemours plant site. The economics of large container vessels using East Coast ports have improved, thanks, in part, to the Panama Canal now being able to handle larger ships.
A Delaware River port could be a formidable competitor for competitors since ships could avoid a longer voyage up the river. The former Chemours site also has rail access.
The state would receive millions of dollars in lease payments each year and be freed from putting at least part of the debt burden of new equipment purchases, such as multimillion dollar cranes, on taxpayers.
The Port of Wilmington has been posting losses but remainsin sound financial condition.
The Gulftainer agreement was endorsed by the Delaware General Assembly in spite of a few concerns over foreign ownership from groups worried about Middle Eastern ownership.
The port remains a rare source of good-paying blue collar jobs that have been disappearing in Delaware with the closing of auto plants and other manufacturing sites.