PORTLAND (AP) – The future looks uncertain for Portland’s International Marine Terminal and its container-handling operation, which was closed last week after barge service was suspended.

New Jersey-based Columbia Coastal Transport stopped barge service out of Portland on June 29 after the loss of a key customer, Red Shield Environmental LLC, an Old Town pulp and energy company that has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is trying to reorganize its finances

That prompted the city to shut down the terminal.

The only other facility in Maine to offer container handling is in Auburn.

Four full-time and 16 part-time workers are employed at the Portland terminal.

Red Shield had used the Columbia Coastal barge to ship 10,000 metric tons of wood pulp each month. The pulp was carried by rail to Sprague Energy, packed into containers and shipped out of the marine terminal by barge to the Port of New York/New Jersey.

Without Red Shield, the biweekly barge service was no longer viable, said Kevin Mack, Columbia Coastal spokesman. “There is not enough to pick up right now,” he said.

City Manager Joseph Gray says Portland wants to transfer management of the terminal to the Maine Port Authority because it cannot afford $8 million to $10 million in needed repairs.

But the Maine Port Authority would no longer be interested in a deal without the container barge service, said John Henshaw, executive director.

“Obviously, we would look to (manage the terminal) as a service to Maine companies, but we want to realize revenues,” Henshaw said. He’s optimistic that barge service will resume.


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