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31 January 2017

Cold Storage Warehouse Could Create International Trade Avenue, Butting Heads with Locale

Img: Portland Maine 
Portland, Maine has the most perfect strategically-positioned port to receive regular shipments from Europe. Operated by Maine Port Authority, it is the closest port to Europe. Currently, the port is receiving regular shipments from Norway with a ship coming every 10 days. Those in charge hope to have at least a boat a week in the near future, building a relationship that bridges oceans. This U.S. port is extremely well-situated to receive European imports and relay U.S. exports.

Building plans for a huge refrigerated warehouse have been proposed by Americold, a big-name player in cold-warehousing solutions. The monstrous warehouse would occupy 120,000 square-feet of Portland’s waterfront. If the proposed building plan is approved by the city, it will make Portland, Maine into a regional player.

The plot of land upon which the warehouse is set to be built has its roots in industrialism. In the 19th century, the waterfront was occupied by gasworks and glassworks. The factories are no more, and the land has remained vacant for years. As evidence, that same plot of land was used as a dumping grounds for plowed snow just a decade ago according to the Maine Public. The area was enlivened after Maine Port Authority convinced Eimskip, an international shipping firm, to make Portland it’s only U.S. port-of-call. As a business, Maine Port Authority deals with marine and rail facilities “in support of economic development,” so this project is right up their alley.

John Henshaw, executive director of Maine Port Authority, is one of the driving forces behind the project, commandeering $25 million in public investment to go towards building up the port and its International Marine Terminal, undoubtedly the sector dealing with Eimskip. His clever financial finagling has ensured that more cargo is being moved each year. Working in conjunction with Americold, Maine Port Authority wants to build up the port so as to better receive and ship out goods. If Americold is successful in their bid to build the massive cold storage warehouse, it will be placed right next to the port, creating an efficient and area-targeted solution for importers and exporters of cold goods.

Img: Maine Wind Industry
The most shipped product from their biggest international catch is freshly-caught Norwegian catch. Eimskip ships line-caught haddock that has been “headed and gutted and flash-frozen within four hours of being caught,” said Bristol Seafood Co. CEO Peter Handy, one of the purchasers of the Icelandic imports. Before Eimskip connected with Maine Port Authority, Handy was sourcing Norwegian haddock from another cold storage warehouse Massachusetts. These fish had to be transported by truck to another warehouse in Portland, incurring costs along the way. If the warehouse is built up, Handy’s imported haddock will go straight from the boat into cold storage, vastly limiting costs and securing continued business for both Americold and Maine Port Authority. The projected flow of business would have Americold bankrolling construction of the warehouse, something to the tune of $31 million, and paying rent to Maine Port Authority.

While fish is one of the more popular imports, exports are varied and many. Eimskip transports cargo to other port in northern Europe on the way back to Iceland; included in the haul: forest products, blueberries, potatoes, dry goods, appliances and electric vehicles. The port has even seen entire movie sets shipped to Iceland. Henshaw values the total value of cargo shipped through the port at $600 million a year. He’s confident that by expanding upon the port will only increase the dealings done with Eimskip, dramatically improving trade between America and the EU.

The cold storage warehouse could, by all means, nudge Portland into renewed relevance by boosting the local economy and offering a valuable avenue for international trade. As such, the building plans were quickly approved by the governing bodies in Maine. However, the builders have proposed a two-story addition to the plans which exceeds the maximum allowable height laid out by current zoning rules. Some city officials in favour of the project want the mile of industrial waterfront to be rezoned, allowing for buildings to tower as high as 75 feet.

The historically industrial area is not as devoid as one might think; a nearby area has been made into a residential district, comprised of working-class rentals, condo units, mansions and subsidized housing. The revision to their building proposal rankled the adjoining community who are not ready to allow such an eyesore to besmirch their town.

Sonia Roberston, resident in the area, suggested an alternative solution: “Please don’t permit a [project] that’s too big, too out-of-scale and too visually disruptive. Take the time to examine building alternatives so that cold storage works for the waterfront as well as the entire city.”  

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).