Wind energy companies among those interested in running New London's State Pier

East Hartford — Connecticut Port Authority officials say there's "great interest" in New London's State Pier facility from terminal operators and, more recently, wind energy companies.

The port authority received responses from five companies, from both inside and outside the state, to its request for qualifications for a port operator for State Pier. A quasi-public agency, the port authority is charged with marketing the state's maritime economy, including its three deepwater ports in Bridgeport, New Haven and New London. It's not publicly releasing the names of the companies.

"We're going to evaluate the highest and best use of State Pier that will redound to create jobs in Connecticut and generate revenue for us that we can spend to push the maritime economy forward for the state," said Scott Bates, deputy secretary of the state and chairman of the port authority's board.

The board met Wednesday at Goodwin College and went into executive session to discuss the submitted proposals, which were due by March 18. Initially, the port authority was going to announce the finalists this week, but that was delayed to give the board more time to review the proposals. The plan is to announce finalists at the board's next meeting in May, with the goal of picking a port operator in the fall.

Officials have said New London's deepwater port, the only one between Boston and Norfolk, Va., without height or width restrictions in its main channel, could be ideal for everything from receiving shipments of wind turbine parts to manufacturing components.

The port authority, which owns the State Pier facility, has an operating budget of a little more than $1 million for fiscal year 2018, according to Executive Director Evan Matthews. It gets 6.75 percent of the assessable revenue generated from New London's port, which amounted to about $500,000 last year. The port authority is budgeting $560,000 in revenue this year, given the uptick in activity at State Pier, according to Matthews.

The lease with the current port operator, Logistec, which is among the companies that submitted proposals, ends in January 2019, and there's a two-year option to renew.

The state appropriated $400,000 in fiscal years 2017 and 2018 for the port authority. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's fiscal year 2019 budget proposal maintains the $400,000 appropriation.

State Pier covers nearly 30 acres, includes two piers, the deepwater channel and on-dock rail, and is in close proximity to Interstates 95 and 395.

j.bergman@theday.com

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