| CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., June 23
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., June 23 A Middle
Eastern-owned company landed its first North American port
operations contract on Monday, a 35-year agreement with Port
Canaveral on Florida's east coast.
Under terms of the lease, Gulftainer, a wholly-owned
subsidiary of United Arab Emirates-based Crescent Enterprises,
will invest up to $100 million in equipment and employees to
operate a container and cargo terminal under construction at
Port Canaveral, just south of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
and Kennedy Space Center.
"Our intent is to reach up into that southeast manufacturing
belt and into the traditional heartland markets for distribution
and logistics," Port Canaveral Chief Executive John Walsh said
at a signing ceremony.
"We're well-positioned to reach well in through the
Caribbean Islands, Latin America, South America, over to Africa,
and pick up the global trade routes to northern Europe, into the
Middle East and Asia," Walsh said.
Port directors considered several international operators
before selecting Gulftainer for the contract, which was not
"We could have started a container terminal from scratch and
taken 20 years to slowly get there. Instead, we partnered with a
proven leader in world container handling," Walsh said.
With the new agreement, Gulftainer will now operate and
manage ports and logistics businesses in five continents. Port
Canaveral is the company's first North American client.
"We strongly believe the new cargo terminal will be
game-changer," said Badr Jafar, chief executive of Crescent
Enterprises and managing director of the Crescent Group, a
diversified holding company with interests in ports, aviation,
real estate, petroleum and private equity.
"Despite the rapid development of air and land
transportation, over 90 percent of world trade is still carried
Port Canaveral is already one of the busiest cruise ports in
the world by passenger count and has a growing bulk cargo
business including oil, orange juice concentrate and cement.
Shipping in standardized containers - measured in 20-foot
equivalent units, or TEUs, "has enhanced business growth by
reducing time, increasing volumes and creating huge economies of
scale," Jafar said.
Gulftainer aims to increase the port's shipping container
business from a few hundred units per year to 700,000 TEUs per
year, he added.
A related proposal to extend a railway line to the port is
under review. The new cargo terminal is expected to begin
operations later this year.
Gulftainer said it plans to hire all its full-time employees
from Florida. Ultimately the project could generate 500 jobs in
the region, which is still recovering from the shutdown of
NASA's space shuttle program in 2011.
(Editing by David Adams and Steve Orlofsky)