DNREC green lights work at planned container port as questions swirl around current operator


The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control issued two authorizations to the Diamond State Port Corporation (DSPC)  tied to the redevelopment of the former Chemours Edgemoor site.

DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin signed an order Thursday approving a subaqueous lands permit and a federal certification.

The approvals come after financial, and personnel issues surfaced during the summer at the Port of Wilmington, now operated by Emirates-based Gulftainer. 

The News Journal recently carried an exhaustive subscribers-only piece that outlined a myriad of problems that included the departure of Gulftainer’s local chief,  disputes over bills, and a recorded employee meeting that revealed the seriousness of the port’s problems.

It was also reported that the state-owned Diamond State Port Authority extended a deadline for construction of what has been touted as a $500 million container port with direct access to the Delaware River. 


Gulftainer signed a long-term lease for the Port of Wilmington, with pledges to upgrade the current port and make payments to the state. It has continued to make upgrades at the port at the confluence with the Christina River.

This week, the free-lance writer of the story Karl Baker asked John Carney about the situation at the governor’s Covid-19 briefing,  citing what he said was a  failure of state officials to respond to requests for comment.

The state has also fought a freedom of information submission, not an uncommon occurrence in a state sometimes criticized for its reluctance to comply with FOIA. requests. Earlier this year, proposed legislation calling for higher fees in some cases and further tightening was dropped after an outcry in various quarters.

Carney told Baker the port ran at a loss under state management and noted that the Covid-19 pandemic had a negative impact. However, the state ended up with the port after Wilmington struggled with financial issues.

Today,  Gulftainer scheduled a press event attended by state officials outlining a $37 million investment in the current port, perhaps as a way to counter the criticism. 

The Chemours plant site, at 4600 Hay Road, Edgemoor, was sold by Chemours to the DSPC in 2017. However, Chemours demolished the plant before the sale, and all applicable permits were transferred to the port corporation.

The nearby IKO roofing products plant was closed this year with the loss of four dozen jobs.  A spokesman said at the time that the Canadian company would have considered a portion of the Chemours site for a state-of-the-art plant to replace the obsolete Edgemoor facility.  However, the proposed port project closed off that option.

The Port of Wilmington faces a competitive Delaware River Market with a new port in southern New Jersey that tried to take away the port’s lucrative produce business.

Earlier, New Jersey and Pennsylvania representatives complained that the container port project was getting preferential treatment that placed other ports at a disadvantage.

The subaqueous lands permit issued by the DNREC Division of Water authorizes DSPC to build a 112-foot wide by a 2,600-foot long wharf, dredge the berth,  access channel to a depth of 45 feet below mean low water, and install 3,200 feet of bulkhead along the shoreline.

The second authorization, a federal consistency certification required from the DNREC Division of Climate, Coastal, and Energy, concurs that the activities associated with the proposed project comply with the enforceable policies of the DNREC Coastal Management Program.

Both DNREC authorizations require compensation, including areas to offset the filling of some subaqueous lands belonging to the state as part of the construction of the proposed container port. The mitigation required includes:

  • Constructing over an acre of intertidal wetland habitat along the Delaware River
  • Funding an Environmental DNA Fisheries Monitoring Program for the state
  • Creating new public access at Fox Point State Park to the Delaware River

The DNREC Secretary’s Order concludes that the DSPC has adequately demonstrated compliance with all requirements of the statutes and regulations, has submitted a plan required for the filling of 5.5 acres of subaqueous lands of the state of Delaware related to the proposed construction associated with this project. DnREC is continuing to work with the department to assure that all commitments and ongoing compliance requirements are met, a release stated.