The Virginia Port Authority will not privatize most of its port operations.
The authority's board of commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to discontinue negotiations with two companies that were seeking to lease and operate the state's ocean terminals.
Instead, the board voted to stick with longtime port operator Virginia International Terminals. VIT has operated the state's ports for the past 30 years and the board will seek to restructure its operations to improve its performance.
The authority received an unsolicited bid from APM Terminals last spring to privatize most of its port operations. A group headed by JP Morgan Chase & Co. was also a contender in the process seeking a long-term lease of port facilities. The companies say their proposals were worth billions of dollars.
A vote Tuesday in Norfolk could have a major impact on the operations of the port in Hampton Roads. And a resident of the Roanoke Valley is at the center of the debate.
Both of Virginia's major railroads, Norfolk Southern and CSX, carry containers to and from the terminals in Hampton Roads. And the Port of Virginia is a gateway for Virginia manufacturing and agricultural products that are shipped around the world. What happens there has an impact on the entire state.
The vote on Tuesday will decide if the operation of the terminals there should be privatized.
The issue has been controversial, and Former Delegate William Fralin is right in the middle as the Chairman of the Virginia Port Authority.
We spoke with Fralin on Monday morning. "Because of our deep water, because of our location, because of our rail connections, we're going to need more capacity and the question is do we finance that through operations or do we finance that with some private sector money. And these are long term decisions, thirty and forty year decisions," he said.
The Port Authority is considering two private proposals to operate the port, or it could decide to keep the non-profit corporation it created in 1982.
No matter what path it chooses, Fralin said the port authority is committed to expanding the operation, and making it a stronger economic engine for the entire state.