“The proposal would clearly be a stake in the breast” of Portsmouth, the city’s mayor, Kenneth I. Wright, told a standing-room-only meeting of the House Appropriations Committee.
The city could lose 2 percent of its real estate tax revenue under one of the proposals, he said, adding: “The loss would be nothing short of catastrophic.”
The terminals are “critical to the economic well-being” of the commonwealth, said Art Moye, executive vice president of the Virginia Maritime Association, representing 400 companies with 70,000 workers.
More than 70 percent of the group’s members are against privatizing the Port of Virginia’s terminal operations, Moye said.
“We’re the people that are in the trenches. This is our livelihood. This is our lives,” he said.
The initial proposal to privatize the port came from APM Terminals, whose parent, Maersk Group, owns the world’s largest shipping company. Other shipping firms are worried about getting a fair deal at the state’s terminals.
If the state selects APM Terminals to run the Hampton Roads terminals, “Maersk is going to have an extremely unfair competitive advantage over the other carriers that call at that port,” said George Garris, president of Fred P. Gaskell Co. Inc. of Norfolk, a freight forwarder and customs house broker.
And that will hurt the port and Virginia, Garris said. “Shippers will go to other ports to avoid Maersk’s competitive advantage. We’re going to lose a significant number of vessel calls if Maersk gets it.”