Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Speaking Of Upcoming Port Elections, How Is It The Incumbent Port Commissioners Sandbagged On This Opprtunity To Deny Us Good, Long-Term, Family Wage Jobs For Many Of Us?

Port wants to ride the green tide
Commission forms partnership with start-up shipping company, pursues federal grant to build one or two cargo ships

The Daily Astorian

A national push for greener transportation could bring cargo through the Port of Astoria again.

The Port is partnering with a start-up shipping company and pursuing a federal grant to build one or two small container ships that would transport cargo up and down the West Coast, and as far up the Columbia River as Lewiston, Idaho.

Port leaders and Santa Maria Shipping, LLC, of Santa Rosa, Calif., are trying to tap into $575 billion of stimulus funding. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program is intended to improve economic competitiveness and reduce congestion on U.S. highways. Minimum grant size for the projects is $20 million.

One aspect of the TIGER grant is to lighten traffic on highways and move freight to more fuel-efficient ships that will cut carbon emissions and save shippers money.

The Port's proposed project would include construction of the two ships and a rail head at North Tongue Point. The 400-foot ships would be capable of carrying up to 125 cargo boxes up and down the West Coast. And their 14-foot draft would allow them to go up the Columbia River to Lewiston, Idaho. The estimated total cost for the ships is between $20 million and $40 million. Santa Maria is taking bids from three Northwest companies to build the ships.

The Port would own the ships and Santa Maria would be the leasing company.

Dan Snitchler, the company's vice president in charge of special projects, said about 100 cargo boxes per week have been "signed up for." Hundreds of boxes are already leaving Lewiston by truck or rail, headed for Europe.

"We believe that the marine highway is the wave of the future," Snitchler said.

Potential customers include Astoria Warehousing and Deals Only.

The ships could eventually move 5,000 container boxes between Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle each day.

Snitchler said at least one crane for Astoria would be included in the grant request. The estimated cost for the mobile, 80-ton-capacity crane is $4 million. The company intends to position cranes at other cities or "drop sites."

Santa Maria has been working with the Port of Astoria on business opportunities at North Tongue Point, where the company was looking to build a shipyard.

Port of Astoria Executive Director Jack Crider said Santa Maria is now dedicated to the current project.

"With mostly grants, there's not a lot of risk," Crider said. "Risk is not moving ahead. We learned the risk of not moving ahead with NOAA."

When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was looking for a new home for its Pacific fleet of research vessels, the Port jumped into the fray. But the Clatsop Economic Development Resources (CEDR) determined that Astoria wasn't likely to land the fleet and the Port pulled out of consideration. NOAA decided to move the fleet to Newport.

"I wanted to put the facility here (on Pier 1) instead of Tongue Point," Crider said. "I wish we would have moved ahead and done it. Newport put together a great proposal."

Crider said the purchase of the Tongue Point property has taken a turn. The Port had been trying to buy the property from the Washington Group, a Montana-based company.

He said the Port is now considering a lease option, and fishing vessels out of Alaska will be showing up soon, looking for berths.