Politics Blog

SSA Marine: Change in part-ownership won't affect coal port plan

Bob Watters, SSA Marine senior vice president, says the recent change in the company's ownership structure won't affect SSA's plan to push ahead with the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal export project at Whatcom County's Cherry Point.

"We are full speed ahead on the Gateway Pacific Terminal," Watters said in an email. "This announcement has no impact on GPT other than the fact that the owners of FRS Capital Corp. have made a significant equity infusion to position Carrix to continue to expand our activities, enhancing existing operations and adding new terminals such as GPT."

Watters was elaborating on this Jan. 7 press release , which announces that a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs has sold its sizeable stake in FRS, parent company of Carrix, parent company of SSA.

Replacing Goldman Sachs is Mexican executive Fernando Chico Pardo.

While the press release, and Watters' followup statement, hailed the change as an infusion of equity that will help SSA grow, environmental groups hailed Goldman Sachs's exit as a sign that the Wall Street investment giant has lost faith in the economic viability of coal exports.

But that interpretation assumes that Goldman Sachs' decision to buy a chunk of Carrix/SSA in 2007 was motivated solely by the prospects for a coal terminal at Cherry Point, four years before SSA began the public process for that project. As I noted in yesterday's blog post, SSA is a big company with revenue-producing operations in many ports, and many expansion projects in the works besides Gateway Pacific.