Georgia officials are eyeing a bankrupt paper mill on the St. Mary's River in Camden County as a possible site for a third port, according to two local newspapers.
Camden County Development Authority Executive Director David Keating recommended to lawmakers that the state buy the 720-acre site of the defunct mill for $12 million and turn it into a port, the Morris News Service
reported Thursday. He also presented his plan to Gov. Nathan Deal and the Georgia Ports Authority, it said.
Contacted by phone in Tampa, Michael Newsome of Bridge Associates, the federally appointed trustee tasked with liquidating the assets, said "nobody has made any offer," but that he is aware of the potential interest.
In June 2004, the Durango Georgia Paper Co. filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and closed down. More than two years later, real estate developer North River LLC purchased the property but defaulted on its payments in the summer of 2010 and was forced to relinquish the site to the bankruptcy estate, according to a notice on the Durango Website.
International real estate firm Marcus and Millchap has been hired to market the property.
The Georgia Ports Authority operates the Port of Savannah, the nation's fourth largest container port, and the Port of Brunswick, which handles roll-on/roll-off, bulk agriculture and breakbulk cargoes. It also is responsible for two inland barge ports.
St. Mary's, Ga., is 40 miles north of Jacksonville, Fla., and a new port there could pose a threat to business at the Port of Jacksonville, which welcomed its first container-only terminal in 2009 and tentatively plans to open another one in 2016. Last year, Jacksonville handled 900,433 TEUs compared to 826,580 TEUs in 2010.
The Port of Savannah’s throughput was 2.95 million TEUs, up 3.5 percent from 2010.
A Georgia Ports Authority spokesman did not return phone calls seeking comment on a possible investment in a greenfield facility.
Georgia has an opportunity to capture some of the marine business that now flows through Florida's 14 ports, Keating was quoted as saying in the Savannah Morning News
The demolished mill sits three miles upstream from a shipping channel maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at 48 feet deep to accommodate submarines stationed at the Kings Bay Naval Base and the Port of Fernandina on the Florida side of the river, according to the news accounts. The property has a dock where it used to receive shipments of timber by barge, but dredging would be required to extend the main channel for passage of large ships to the proposed port.
The site already has connections to the CSX rail network and is near Interstates 95, 16 and 10.
Keating did not provide any figure for the cost to build a new port.
wire service story ran in papers such as the Savannah Morning News
, the Augusta Chronicle
and the Florida-Times Union
in Jacksonville. — Eric Kulisch