By Alex Bridges -- email@example.com
An effort to privatize Virginia's ports attracted two major international firms, according to information released by the state Wednesday.
The Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships advised the process remains in the early stages and intent by private firms to take over the ports doesn't guarantee state's approval. Likewise any takeover deal struck may not necessarily include The Virginia Inland Port in Warren County.
As made available on the transportation office's website, the agency received proposals from Carlyle Infrastructure Partners LP, a team of Washington D.C.-based The Carlyle Group, and from RREEF America LLC, of New York City. The agency had received in April a conceptual proposal from APM Terminals to take over The Virginia Inland Port, Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal and its own APM Terminals.
The transportation office briefed the Virginia Port Authority board at a special meeting that day on the two alternative conceptual proposals at a special meeting submitted through the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995. Proposals call for the private firms to assume certain control of the five of the state's ports and repay Virginia some amount of compensation.
"I think they make reference to Portsmouth, the Inland Port and the Port of Virginia as being something they would be open to potentially operating subject to further discussions, so again it's a bit general at this point," said Ryan Pedraza, program manager for the ports project. "The Inland Port is not the central theme in any of them but what I guess is important to keep in mind is all of the proposals at this stage are conceptual in nature, so details about scope of the operation, scope of the concession, are what we'll work to refine over the coming months."
Part of the review process will involve officials looking at the concessions offered as compared to what the state already makes and spends on the ports.
"There are differences between how the various teams view a potential partnership with the commonwealth," Pedraza said. "But probably the most immediate difference I guess to folks reviewing the documents is the value. But generally what they're all putting forth [is] a long-term concession arrangement where they operate a number of port assets, similar to what APM has proposed."
Mere intent by private firms to offer to take over some or all of the state's ports does not guarantee privatization of any of the facilities.
"There's competition between the three but the state's under no obligation to proceed with any of three," Pedraza said. "We're just continuing this process and there will be a point late in the year where a decision will be taken whether to advance to a contract or go down another path."
The alternative proposals remained confidential until the port authority board and the transportation office could meet and discuss the submitted documents. The transportation office has since posted each alternative proposal on the agency's website for public viewing. The agency already posted the unsolicited conceptual proposal submitted in early April by APM Terminals which currently operates a port in Virginia. The agency then advertised for other interested firms to submit proposals.
The proposal evaluation process continues through the public-private partnerships office. The first step after the initial submittal involved advertising for other interested firms to submit alternative proposals, Pedraza explained. The agency then reviewed the proposals against the "minimum submission criteria," according to Pedraza. The agency now plans to move forward and to discuss with the proposing teams the submission of detailed proposals, Pedraza said. Agency officials plan to begin those discussions within the next few days, according to Pedraza. Detailed proposals could be submitted in early October, Pedraza said.
Whether some or all information in the detailed proposals would stay confidential and out of the public view remains unknown.
"Typically the way it works is portions of the proposal depending on the kind of information they contain may qualify for an exemption under [the Freedom of Information Act]," Pedraza said. "If the do the portions would be withheld but the balance of the document would be made public."