Gulftainer, a Middle East-based company, is opening its first American cargo terminal Friday at Port Canaveral.
The opening comes with the promise of new jobs, but there are some who are voicing concerns about its ties in the Middle East.
The cargo vessel, CGM Jamaica, arrived Friday morning as a sign that more than just cruise ships will make stops at Port Canaveral.
GT USA, a subsidiary of Gulftainer, officially opens its new container and cargo terminal as part of a $100 million investment in Brevard County.
Port leaders expect the new business to create 2,000 jobs with an impact of more than $630 million on the local economy.
But some opponents, including a California congressman, have raised concerns that the company's ties to Middle East make it a bad choice to be located near the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and other military installations.
"We're not bad people as I try to emphasize," said Peter Richards, Gulftainer’s managing director. "We're good people here for the good of the community (and) the good of the port. And I think in the next six months, they're going to see that. We're going to actually generate Canaveral into a good logistics hub."
Some bloggers have even claimed Gulftainer helped ship weapons to terrorist groups, but the company said that's not true.
"The garbage that they put about us being linked to terrorist groups, where do they come off?" Richards said. "I don't understand how anybody can do that. We’re trusted by 15 governments worldwide. We actually cooperate with your own military. We actually provide the logistics for the American forces in the Middle East."
Port Canaveral leaders are coming to the defense of the company.
"We've selected them because they are good, quality people," said John Walsh, CEO of Port Canaveral. "They are one of the best terminal operators in the world, and then to have members of our community say things that are inappropriate, racist and profiling. To me, that's not OK."
Richards said Gulftainer's focus at Port Canaveral will solely be on importing and exporting goods — everything from the kitchen sink to designer clothes.
In the first year, Gulftainer expects 50,000 containers to pass through Port Canaveral. Company leaders hope to grow that to 750,000 containers in the years ahead.
Gulftainer's cargo vessel, CGM Jamaica, arrived at Port Canaveral on Friday, June 12. (PHOTO/Jon Shaban, Staff)