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Operators sought for state’s new marine port in New Bedford

An aerial view of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center's New Bedford port.
An aerial view of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center's New Bedford port.(Apex Companies/MassCEC)

The state’s $113 million marine terminal in New Bedford should be done within the next several weeks, but primary tenant Cape Wind Associates’ arrival is still months away.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center doesn’t plan to wait around. The quasi-public agency that owns the terminal issued a request for proposals earlier this week, seeking port operators that could run the terminal as a cargo port.

There’s one big string attached: The operator would need to make room for Cape Wind once financing for the roughly $2.5 billion offshore wind farm can be secured. Cape Wind’s two-year lease will pay the agency $187,500 a month, although the lease is contingent on Cape Wind securing financing. The wind farm developer, an affiliate of Energy Management Inc. in Boston, had hoped to have its financing complete by Jan. 1. Last week, the firm disclosed that it’s going to miss that deadline.

MassCEC chief executive Alicia Barton said the agency has for months intended to hire a port operator to oversee Cape Wind’s lease and to handle freight shipping when the site isn’t being used for wind farm work. After an operator is picked, Barton said, Cape Wind would sublease the 28-acre site from that company under the existing lease terms.

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Barton said the terminal will be substantially complete by the end of January. “It has been built to handle offshore wind projects but with an acknowledgment that these projects would be on an uncertain schedule,” she said.

Interested companies have until Feb. 23 to submit a bid, making it unlikely a port operator would be in place before April. Barton said the site could be used for short-term shipping projects before clearing the decks for Cape Wind. (Siemens will manufacture power-generating components for Cape Wind in Denmark.)

Under proposed lease terms, MassCEC would need to notify the port operator six months in advance before windmill construction takes place. But Barton said that time frame remains open to negotiation.

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Cape Wind officials aren’t offering details about the new timetable. “What’s important to Cape Wind is that the port facility is provided to us when we need it, which we are assured it will be,” Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers said in an e-mail. “When we reach financial closing in early 2015, we will announce our construction and port use schedule.”

Barton said she views the arrangement with Cape Wind as a potential draw, instead of a disadvantage. Five port operators already expressed an interest earlier this year, before the Cape Wind lease was finalized. “Operators are excited about the potential for this new industry,” Barton said of offshore wind, “and would like to get in on the ground floor of it.”


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.