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Port of Gulfport negotiating with Turkish company on multi-million projects

By LISA MONTI
mbj@msbusiness.com

A Turkish company is negotiating with the Mississippi State Port Authority to lo-cate a multimillion dollar terminal operation at the Port of Gulfport.

Officials with the Port Authority and YilPort Holding A.S., a subsidiary of Yildirim Holding A.S., based in Istanbul, signed a letter of intent this month to kick off the negotiations.

“Yilport is promising to invest hundreds of millions of dollars at the Port of Gulfport and is looking for a long-term agreement. Now that an LOI is in place, both sides will engage in due diligence for the next couple of months before determining whether to enter into final lease negotiations,” said Jonathan Daniels, the port’s CEO and executive director.

Discussions with Yilport began in February 2017. Robert Yuksel Yildirim, YilPort Holding’s chairman, visited the port in November.

The Port of Gulfport is nearing completion of a $570 million restoration project, and YilPort Holding would commit to investing in additional facility and equip-ment upgrades, Daniels said, “to further improve the efficiency for the customers they will serve at the Port of Gulfport.”

Daniels said Yilport is “fully prepared” to bring targeted investments to the Mississippi Coast. “The use of their diversified portfolio could create opportunities for down stream logistics and even manufacturing to be created in conjunction with a port financial investment,” he said.

Currently, Daniels said, there is no national freight policy dealing with targeted in-vestments in U.S. ports, so funding is often a mix of public components and some level of private investment. “Robert Yildirim knows all too well what targeted private investments can do when they are properly leveraged against public funds in order to create a world-class port operation,” Daniels said.

Yildirim said his company will use state-of-the-art port technologies at Gulfport to make it “the most competitive in the region.”

“We see a great potential to feed volume, particularly refrigerated goods to Gulfport from YilPort terminals in Ecuador, Peru and Latin America to reach the (U.S.)Midwest,” Yildirim said. There is further potential in leveraging the company’s trading subsidiary to handle containerized liquid and bulk products out of the U.S. Gulf Coast region for small and medium-sized shippers.”

YilPort’s interest in Gulfport follows its public-private investment in 2016 when the company committed to investing $750 million to modernize the Puerto Bolivar port in Ecuador, a major shipping point for fruits and seafood. When the project is completed, officials say, the port is set to become the largest and most advanced container terminals on the Pacific coast of Latin America.

Meanwhile, another major expansion in Gulfport is in the works. In November 2017, the Army Corps of Engineers released the Record of Decision for the Port of Gulfport expansion project, paving the way for a 282-acre dredge and fill program which would increase the port’s operations. “With the permit in-hand, the port is now evaluating options to complete the dredge and fill project,” Daniels said.

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