The choice of Rhode Island Port Services as the new terminal operator for the port of Davisville in North Kingstown has two of the biggest existing companies there, Seafreeze Ltd. and Rhody Transportation & Warehousing Inc., questioning how the agency managing port operations handled the search.
The Quonset Development Corporation declared R.I. Port Services the winner of its request for proposals on Sept. 20. The company was formed specifically for the bid, consisting of representatives from Seaview Transportation of North Kingstown and New England Stevedoring Services of Exeter, familiar faces at the port. According to QDC, both companies are experienced in terminal operations. Seaview Transportation operates the railway system running throughout the park.
Meanwhile, the two port tenants favored an experienced, six-terminal operator from Iceland called Eimskip, which would not only run the port but bring its own shipping operation, making North Kingstown its North American headquarters.
The QDC had detailed discussions with Eimskip throughout the first three months of this year but opted to issue a request for proposals for a terminal operator. When QDC did not commit to conditions necessary to improve the port and make it Eimskip’s headquarters, the company chose not to bid. Eimskip’s current central U.S. location is in Norfolk, Va.
Larus Isfeld, general manager at Eimskip, told Providence Business News in an email last week that, “At present we are evaluating our options in New England. We choose not to comment while these negotiations are taking place.”
QDC spokesman David Preston said there is still hope that Eimskip will be able to do business in Rhode Island.
“There is no reason why Eimskip can’t start bringing cargo to the port today,” he said.
According to Preston, Eimskip required exclusive rights to run the port, including a container yard, warehouses and offices, something Geir Monsen, vice president of Seafreeze, and Rhody Transportation General Manager Chris Tavares, who say they were present in the discussions, deny. “QDC offered the facilities at first, and although Eimskip planned on shipping in its own containers as well as being the operator, they never demanded exclusive rights,” Monsen said. “They are unique because they operate small ships with their own onboard cranes. They would use the land-based crane but could use their own if there was a breakdown, and those things happen.”