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Port of Portland Receives $14 Million Federal Grant to Expand Refrigerated Cargo Capacity

Posted on November 8, 2023

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced a $14 million “port improvement project” at the Portland International Marine Terminal (IMT).

Funding for the project comes from the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP), a more than $663 million “discretionary grant program administered by the Maritime Administration.”

Projects eligible for PIDP grants “improve the safety, efficiency, or reliability of the movement of goods into, out of, around, or within a port.”

According to this morning’s press release from MARAD, $172.8 million worth of the total grants awarded went to twenty-six small ports “to continue to improve and expand their capacity to move freight reliably and efficiently, thereby boosting local and regional economies while protecting surrounding communities from air pollution.”

The $14 million project at Portland’s IMT will “modernize” a yard that is used for refrigerated cargoes.

Included in the project is the construction of:

  • “Racks to store containers with refrigerated cargoes”
  • “Steel frames to house stairs to access containers, lighting, and the electrical infrastructure to connect containers to shore power while they are in storage and waiting to be unloaded or transported.”

“The project design integrates the storage facility with the Port’s recently completed railhead and cold storage warehouse, both of which are adjacent to the proposed site for the refrigerated containers,” the press release states.

It is also noted that the new project will “complement” a FY 2020 PIDP-funded project at the terminal that implemented “a first phase of improvements to container storage capacity at the port.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — who serves as Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee — released a statement on the incoming federal support.

According to Sen. Collins, “the funding will support components of [the Maine Department of Transportation]’s ‘Enhancing Maine’s Three-Port Strategy for the Future’ proposal.”

Maine’s Three-Port Strategy was first developed in 1978 and has continued to serve as a guide for “concentrat[ing] state investments in Maine’s deep-water port facilities” in the decades since.

“Maine’s Three-Port Strategy is focused on supporting the development of infrastructure improvements with an eye toward the future and attention toward efficiencies, resiliency, equity, and alternative clean energy, as well as the consideration of industrious Mainers and their livelihoods,” the Maine Department of Transportation wrote in their application for the PIDP grant, “and so emphasis is placed on working waterfronts through rehabilitation of our infrastructure; the dredging of harbors and channels; and the creation and sustainment of good paying jobs for years to come.”

“Improving Maine’s infrastructure and modernizing our coastal economies are essential efforts for ensuring our state’s long-term growth and prosperity,” Collins said in her press release.

“This investment will help better position Portland for future expansions and increasing freight volumes,” Collins said. “As the Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue to advocate for programs that better Maine’s infrastructure and strengthen our maritime economy.”

In their grant application, the MaineDOT explains that the Portland IMT “has seen unprecedented growth in containerized cargo imports and exports” since 2010, largely due to Icelandic shipping company Eimskip beginning liner service to the port in 2013.

While the IMT currently has 136 refrigerated containers, but Eimskip has estimated that in the next five years, they will need 420 in order to support their shipping operations in Portland.

In order to accommodate the extra containers, a number of additional facilities need to be constructed. The total estimated cost for the necessary upgrades came to $17.8 million.

While the MaineDOT had hoped to receive the vast majority of the funding for this project from the federal government, it stated its intention to $3.56 million should the grant be approved.

In their application, the MaineDOT suggested that should they not receive adequate funding to complete this project, “60% of the cargo traffic will be diverted to Boston and trucked to Portland, incurring higher vessel and trucking costs, as well as higher Carbon Dioxide emissions and other negative external costs such as noise.”

It is also expected that this project will create a number of jobs in both the short and long term for Maine.

Construction is estimated to take eighteen months and will require crews of between twelve and sixteen workers.

According to the MaineDOT, having increased throughput at the port will also lead to “additional development of the local workforce.”

Work on the project is set to begin during the second quarter of 2024 and is expected to be completed by early 2026.

Click here for information about the Portland IMT’s proposal, including their application narrative and relevant appendices.


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