A former deck officer on ocean-going ships who also worked as a state transportation department official has been named the new executive director of the Maine Port Authority.

Maine Port Authority Executive Director Matthew Burns Photo courtesy of Maine Port Authority

Matthew Burns started as head of the agency at the beginning of the month. The port authority oversees the state’s three saltwater ports in Portland, Searsport and Eastport. Burns served as the authority’s interim director for the past year.

“Matt’s combination of maritime and portside experience, leadership qualities and understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing the state – and the Maine Port Authority’s role in helping solve them – made him the consensus choice over serious competition,” authority board member and search committee chair Wade Merritt said in a statement.

Burns is a Maine Maritime Academy graduate who spent 13 years as a deck officer on large ships of all types across the world. He joined the Maine Department of Transportation in 2017 as director of ports and marine transportation.

The new appointment comes ahead of more expansion and improvement of the International Marine Terminal in Portland, the state’s only container port. Shipping through the port has increased annually since 2013, when Icelandic steamship company Eimskip added Portland to its sailing schedule.

The port plans to expand its refrigeration capacity to handle more cold containers, improve the pier, add terminal equipment and possibly dredge near the terminal to handle increasing demand. The authority is in the process of negotiating a lease for a large cold-storage warehouse at the port.

“I am looking forward to working with all of our port facilities in Maine to plan potential improvements to our port infrastructure and develop projects that can lead to new business using Maine’s ports in the future,” Burns said via email.

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