A decade ago, when the city began planning to separate marine passenger and cargo operations, one of the justifications for building a new terminal on the eastern waterfront was to free up the International Marine Terminal at the western end for what was expected to be a big increase in container traffic. But like the economic benefits of cruise ships, that promise also appears to have been oversold.
The city’s long-term plan for the port, released in May 1998, recommended moving the Scotia Prince international ferry out of the IMT to eliminate scheduling conflicts and make way for a “projected doubling of cargo activity volumes” by 2008.
However, according to Maine Port Authority director John Henshaw, cargo volumes have remained quite modest, and container operations have yet to outgrow the four-acre facility at the IMT.
The cargo port has another 15 acres to expand into, once money can be found to resurface the old parking area to support heavy loads. But there’s little demand for the extra space, for an entirely foreseeable reason: the IMT almost exclusively serves Maine’s pulp and paper industry, which is rapidly divesting itself of land and facilities. Henshaw said there are new opportunities — exporting wood pellets or attracting a feeder service to New York to compete with trucks and rail — but he admits that net growth, for the foreseeable future, will be small.
— Colin Woodard