The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has granted a request for an expedited hearing requested by major maritime interests in the Delaware River area in a lawsuit questioning the jurisdiction of the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority.
The hearing, scheduled presently for October 3, 2007, is based on a complaint filed by the International Longshoremen's Association District Council of Philadelphia and Wilmington (DE), the Philadelphia Marine Trade Association (PMTA) and the Maritime Stakeholders Group (MSG). The three organizations, which collectively represent more than 300 maritime-related entities, claim that the PRPA is overstepping its jurisdiction by preparing to convey maritime land to a non-maritime related use.
The ILA, PMTA and MSG are among other organizations all involved in a major effort to develop the former Philadelphia Navy Yard and contiguous land into a world-class containership facility, which can bring some 175,000 new employment opportunities to the region.
The specific action being challenged is the PRPA's passage of a resolution that would transfer this key port facility to a food services company in exchange for a site inland which has no value to the shipping industry. Despite the lawsuit, the PRPA Commissioners authorized PRPA to transfer Pier 98 Annex, a 46-acre waterfront parcel, for the inland property owned by SYSCO Foods.
The plaintiffs' note that the legislative act that established the PRPA, in 1989, specifically mandated that its activities were to focus on "greater utilization of the Delaware River for the increased commercial and prosperity of the people of the Commonwealth." The goal to build a world-class facility at the area known as Southport in Philadelphia has been under study for more than a year. Supportive action by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell has resulted in a 45-foot dredging commitment, more property availability and legitimate interest by potential private maritime developers.