Amports operates in eight seaports—if you include efforts to launch business in Port Tampa Bay—and two inland rail ramps in Mexico (Toluca and Salamanca). In two of those locations—Baltimore on the East Coast and Benicia in California—it owns, rather than leases, its land.
That essentially makes the auto processor a mini-port authority. The company is responsible for dredging the berth area, maintaining the berth, interfacing with the carriers, publishing a tariff and collecting wharfage and dockage fees.
The upside in those locations is that Amports generates a dual revenue stream: one as a port from carriers, and another as a processor from auto makers.
In some locations, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company also makes money by renting space for storage of used vehicles and high-and-heavy equipment for construction and other fields.
Auto processors are the buffer between manufacturers and dealers. Amports provides a host of services, including vehicle washing, pre-delivery inspection, installation of accessories and protective coatings, body and mechanical repair, painting, wrapping vehicles with protective wrap, rail loading and unloading, warranty claims, recalls, and more.
Amports has about 800 full-time employees and flexes its force with temporary labor because there is usually a lot of downtime between vessel and truck arrivals at ports, President and CEO Steve Rand, explained during a Jan. 23 presentation at the American Association of Port Authorities’ international trade workshop in Tampa, Fla.
The auto processor is in the unique position in Baltimore of leasing land at the Maryland Port Authority’s Dundalk Terminal on one side of the harbor and operating its independent facility on the other side.
Benicia, about 16 miles south of San Francisco, is also unique. It is the only port terminal where Amports also handles bulk product, exporting petroleum coke byproduct derived from the nearby Valero refinery to China.
The business model is a bit different in the ports of Brunswick, Ga., and Hueneme, Calif. In both locations, Amports runs dedicated facilities for BMW.
Amports was recently awarded the contract in Salamanca, Mexico, where Mazda’s new plant is eventually expected to produce 1.2 million cars per year. There the company will perform services behind the plant, such as marshalling vehicles, loading cars on trucks and doing some light accessory work, Rand said.