The Diamond State Port Corporation (DSPC), a state-owned corporate entity, is the port authority that owns and operates the Port of Wilmington. The port is located where the Delaware and Christina Rivers meet about 100 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean on the United States' East Coast, and it occupies an important central location with quick access to a huge consumer market.
In the 2007-2008 shipping season, 388 vessels called at the Port of Wilmington carrying almost four million tons of cargo, including 1.7 million tons of containerized cargo (in 190.6 thousand TEUs) and 130.8 thousand automobiles and roll-on/roll-off units. The Port of Wilmington handled 942 thousand tons of liquid bulk cargo, 701 thousand tons of general cargo, and 637 thousand tons of dry bulk cargo.
The major cargoes were bananas and tropical fruit (1.4 million tons), petroleum (942 thousand tons), dry bulk (637 thousand tons), autos and roll-on/roll-off cargoes (275 thousand tons), other general cargoes (211 thousand tons), other fruits (199 thousand tons), and forest products (134 thousand tons). The Port of Wilmington also handled juice concentrates and steel.
The Port of Wilmington covers 124 hectares and contains 1219 meters of wharf with alongside depth of 11.6 meters. The Delaware River Channel is 12.2 meters deep (mean low water), and the Christina River Channel depths correspond to the depths at the berths. Berths 4 through 7 have a depth of 10.7 meters, while Berths 1 through 3, the floating berth, the petroleum berth, and the auto and roll-on/roll-off berth have a depth of 11.6 meters.
The Port of Wilmington is the United States' leading port for imports of fresh fruit, produce, and juice concentrate, and it is the world's largest port handling bananas. The Port of Wilmington handles over 200 thousand TEUs carrying fresh fruits and concentrates each year, and it offers a 74.3 thousand square meter cold-storage complex for these cargoes. During the winter, the Port of Wilmington receives table grapes, peaches, plums, applies, nectarines, pears, and other fruits from Chile. In the spring, fresh apples, pears, and kiwifruit arrive from New Zealand and Chile. In the fall, Moroccan clementines arrive.
In the 1980s, one of Brazil's major orange juice producers, Citrosuco Paulista, built a bulk facility for off-loading and storage of bulk orange juice at the Port of Wilmington. In the early 1990s, the facility was expanded and became the largest such facility in North America with capacity for over 22 thousand cubic meters. The Port of Wilmington is also an important import and distribution center for apple and pear juice concentrates.
The Port of Wilmington's dedicated Auto and Roll-on/Roll-off Berth on the Delaware River is an important hub for the export of automobiles to Central America, West Africa, and the Middle East. It is the biggest port of export for General Motors' (GM) exports to the Middle East. AutoPort, Inc., a vehicle-processing and –modification company next to the port, customizes GM vehicles before export and is expanding its services to fleet vehicles. Several other companies carry previously-owned vehicles to Central America. In 2007, more than 111 thousand vehicles moved through the Port of Wilmington.
The Port of Wilmington boasts a modern full-service container port. With two state-of-the-art 50-ton capacity container cranes and ample container yard handling equipment, the port has more than 20 hectares of storage available for containers, including reefer containers. The largest container port on the Delaware River, the Port of Wilmington handled over 1.7 million tons of cargo in more than 190 thousand TEUs in 2007.
Wood pulp going to Maryland paper mills was the Port of Wilmington's first import in 1923, forest products have been an important part of the port's throughput. The Port of Wilmington is an important import and distribution hub for lumber from Canada and Scandinavia and for export of newsprint and Kraft linerboard to Central America.
Another important cargo in the Port of Wilmington is steel, and the port serves carriers arriving from the Far East, Europe, and South America. The steel facility can easily accommodate deep-draught vessels transporting steel cargoes, and the Port of Wilmington offers ample shipside and outside cargo warehousing services with direct rail sidings. In 2007, the Port of Wilmington moved 109 thousand tons of steel cargoes that included slabs, rolled coils, wire road, rebar, billets, and profiles.
The Port of Wilmington contains a state-of-the-art bulk petroleum terminal and storage depot that is owned and operated by Magellan Midstream Partners, LP. The terminal handles heating oil, fuel oil, and many other petroleum products. The specialized tanker berth on the Christina River can handle a million tons of bulk petroleum products each year.
The Port of Wilmington is also a distribution hub for special project cargoes. In the last few years, the Port of Wilmington has handled large generations, wind turbine blades, parts for power-generating plants, ship-building materials, and construction equipment. In the late 1980s, the Port of Wilmington began loading livestock bound for Egypt, the Canary Islands, and Venezuela. In 2007, the eight shipments of dairy cows left the Port of Wilmington for the Middle East. The Port of Wilmington has six open berths with alongside depths from 10.7 to 11.5 meters and 13.4 hectares of truck-staging area where livestock and their feed and hay can be loaded.