14 October 2011

Scrap-metal export terminal planned for Providence waterfront land:

PROVIDENCE — A longtime landmark on the city’s waterfront, Promet Marine Services, has been sold to a giant metals recycler that plans to turn the site into a major scrap-metal exporting terminal and use it to reshape the New England metal-recycling marketplace.

Promet Marine Services is the 37-year-old shipyard visible from Route 95 that repairs everything from ocean-going ships to fishing boats. Its site includes more than 9 acres, a 600-foot pier with rail service and 2 deep-water berths. It is owned and operated by 2 brothers, Joel and David Cohen, 76 and 73.

Sims Metal Management Ltd., Promet’s owner since Friday, has its roots in Australia and has more than 250 locations on five continents and more than 6,200 employees, the company says. Its North American Division and joint ventures are located in 21 states and employ more than 4,400. It’s listed on both the Sydney and New York stock exchanges.

Sims, which is also planning a $30-million scrap-handling facility in Johnston that would feed its new harbor site, wants to expand its operations through central Massachusetts into New Hampshire and Maine. That offers a challenge to another major metals recycler, Schnitzer Steel Industries of Portland, Ore., which is already operating in Johnston and at the Port of Providence, and in the industry is said to be the dominant scrap recycler in New England.

This 2007 photo shows the working dock area of Promet Marine Services along the Providence waterfront on Allens Avenue. Ship repair will continue on a portion of the property

Sims said it plans to make Promet its main export site for New England.

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras called Sims “a very welcome addition to Providence’s working waterfront,” and said its move will help the city’s efforts to “grow Providence’s waterfront into an economic engine for the city and all of Rhode Island.”

American Metal Market, a trade publication, called Sims’ purchase of Promet “the second salvo in its battle with Schnitzer Steel Industries.”

The first came in the form of the disclosure by Johnston officials in late September that Sims planned to open a $30-million auto-recycling facility on land near the state Central Landfill. Sims plans to shred autos in Johnston and ship the scrap to the facility in Providence for overseas export, Joel Cohen said.

Cohen and Sims didn’t make the Promet price public, and Sims wouldn’t discuss its Johnston plans. A spokesman for Schnitzer couldn’t be reached.

Providence already exports a significant amount of scrap, and Cohen said “the tonnage is going to increase dramatically.”

Attracting the international metal-recycling giant, Cohen said, is the remarkable nature of Providence’s harbor and Promet’s site: A 40-foot-deep channel able to accommodate the 38,000- to 42,000-ton ships Sims is likely to use.

“Sims was looking for a deep channel and a place to expand their operation in New England,” said Cohen. He called Sims “a classic, top-level blue-collar type of business.”

Cohen said Sims plans to expand its buying area from Providence all the way up through central Massachusetts to Maine and New Hampshire. “It will be a very competitive marketplace,” he said.

Sims said it will also use the Providence Harbor site to service its Connecticut facilities in Stamford, New Haven and North Haven.

According to Sims, the corporate maneuvering will also produce Rhode Island jobs.

Cohen said Promet now employs about 50 — 35 directly and 15 subcontractors.

Sims said it “intends to retain all Promet employees and welcomes them to the Sims Metal Management family. Additional personnel will be added regionally [as the company] executes on its growth plans for the New England region over the coming months.”

“We intend to add many more employees,” said Sims spokesman Daniel Strechay.

Cohen said the Promet work force and Sims will fit together well. The shipyard employs welders, metal workers, mechanical-equipment workers and diesel mechanics.

“They all are easily transferable to a recycling operation,” Cohen said, to maintain heavy machinery. The ship-repair operation will continue on a portion of the property, he said.

Source: The Providence Journal. By Bruce Landis (blandis@providencejournal.com). 12 October 2011

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