Roy Enoksen and his business partner own the largest scallop fleet in the world. Their 27 fishing vessels bring more than 80,000 pounds of seafood into New Bedford each day, employing more than 400 captains, fishermen and support staff. 

But a construction project planned by the city’s port authority would cut off water access at one of Enoksen’s boat maintenance facilities.  

A lawsuit filed by Enoksen last month has blown the lid off a simmering conflict between New Bedford and one of the largest employers along its waterfront. Enoksen owns multiple businesses that operate in the port, including Eastern Fisheries and Marine Hydraulics, a marine repair company that services his boats. 

Mayor Jon Mitchell called the litigation “a veiled attempt to grab valuable land that belongs to the public for the purpose of enhancing the company’s already substantial profits.”

The proposed expansion of New Bedford’s North Terminal would cull more than six acres of fresh land from the harbor using sand dredged from the mouth of the Acushnet River. The dredging would create dozens of new spaces for commercial vessels and remove contaminated sediments that have turned the harbor into a federal Superfund site.

Mitchell said an expanded waterfront would bring new jobs in the fishing, shipping and offshore wind industries to New Bedford.

But some companies leasing space from the port authority today expect to suffer. Enoksen’s Marine Hydraulics would see its marina, piers and two barges removed to make way for the expanded terminal. 

The city anticipated breaking ground on the expansion this year, with plans to offer Enoksen’s maintenance company the right to match the highest offer for a lease on the new waterfront.

Enoksen’s lawsuit, filed on behalf of Marine Hydraulics and another company he owns, alleges the port authority shielded plans to expand the North Terminal until they were finalized, effectively shutting one of New Bedford’s largest seafood companies out of the planning process. 

Marine Hydraulics is now seeking financial compensation for having to close down its marina, piers and barges to outside business. The suit also seeks to halt the project’s construction.

The City of New Bedford is required to file a response in court by March 19, but the expansion of the terminal may already be in peril. The port authority’s chief engineer, Ceasar Duarte, told the Standard-Times that construction bids came in above budget this week, requiring the city to reconsider the project.

Ben Berke is the South Coast Bureau Reporter for The Public’s Radio. He can be reached at bberke@thepublicsradio.org.