Ports say ‘no’ to post-deadline addition

Published 7:39 pm Saturday, August 8, 2009

A spokesman for the Port of Virginia said the entity has decided CenterPoint Properties cannot add a strategic partner to its port privatization proposal after the deadline.

The Chicago-based company developing 900 acres on U.S. Route 58 in Suffolk submitted a proposal in March to partner with the Virginia Port Authority for 60 years and acquire Virginia International Terminals, Inc., the private company that runs the state’s ports, as a subsidiary. VIT then would be employed, through an incentive-based contract, to operate the facilities in Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News and Front Royal.

In accordance with the state’s Public-Private Transportation Act, CenterPoint’s proposal was posted on the port authority’s Web site, and competing proposals were invited. Two competing proposals were received by the July 27 deadline — one from the Washington, D.C.-based Carlyle Group and the other from the partnership of Carrix, Inc. and Goldman Sachs.

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However, early this month, CenterPoint submitted a letter asking if it could add a strategic partner — GCT Global Container Terminals, Inc.

“Our response is no, you cannot, because it’s after the deadline,” Joe Harris, a spokesman for the Virginia Port Authority, said. “You can’t change at this point … It wouldn’t be fair to the other guys.”

The next step in the process is review of the three proposals by an independent panel of laymen, industry experts and community leaders. The panel could reject all three or continue negotiations with one, two or all three, Harris said.

“It’s a business negotiation, it’s going to take some time,” he said. “At this point, it’s still business as usual.”

Chris Ullman, a spokesman for the Carlyle Group, confirmed his company had submitted a bid, but would not reveal any specifics until the proposals are made public. Representatives from Carrix, Inc. and CenterPoint Properties did not return calls Friday.