Maine has miles and miles of coastline, but only one container port – only one place where ships can off-load or take on cargo packed in containers that also fit on truck trailers and in rail cars. It’s the International Marine Terminal on Portland’s western waterfront.

Without the port, Maine would be the end of the road when it comes to interstate commerce. But with it, Maine becomes a midway point between Europe and the major population centers of North America. Access to this trade hub is a huge opportunity for Maine companies that want to receive supplies or ship their products.

The growth of the container port in Portland has been an economic bright spot of the last several years. Now, a proposed cold storage warehouse promises to give the terminal a missing piece of infrastructure that can help the port continue to grow.

The project will go before the Portland Planning Board on Tuesday. We hope the board will consider the contribution this facility would make to the state’s economy and approve it.

The state has been committed to expanding the use of the container port for over a decade. The state has invested $64 million for new cranes and other improvements, providing the infrastructure needed to expand trade. Freight volume grew  by an average of 25 percent annually since the Icelandic steamship company Eimskip made Portland its North American headquarters seven years ago. In 2019, more than 28,600 container units transited Portland, quadruple the volume in 2013.

A cold storage facility has been identified as a critical need for the port for years, but it has not been easy to get it done. The Port Authority partnered with Americold, an industry leader, but the company dropped the project in 2018 after going through a two-year fight to change the zoning on the western waterfront.

The new project would be built by Amber Infrastructure Group on land leased from the state for up to 50 years. The firm would also own and manage the building when it’s up and running. The building, which is expected to cost between $25 million and $30 million in private investment, would be on the local tax rolls and complies with existing zoning regulations.

The ability to keep perishables at the terminal increases opportunity for Maine’s growing food and beverage industry to expand international markets. The port already moves products that originate from 11 of Maine’s 16 counties, and port officials say that this development would increase that kind of business.

Investments in the International Marine Terminal have paid off so far, and there is every reason to believe that this development would support the healthy and sustainable growth of our working waterfront.

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