Last year the river port of Longview’s operating revenues took third place in rankings for Washington State ports for the first time in its history and, this year, as part of an expansion program, the port has purchased more industrial land for port-related development.
There are several reasons for the Longview’s financial success, including the continued, strong demand by China for logs, but also the move by six ports along the Columbia River to pressure government to launch an $8.7 million dredging program that was completed February 2006 and lowered the riverbed by three feet where necessary.
Although there was considerable opposition from environmentalists, the dredging project has since made it possible for today’s fully loaded international bulk cargo and container ships to reach the river ports, including Longview, making them more competitive and improving productivity.
Asked about the impact of the dredging program on the port, Geir-Eilif Kalhagen, Chief Executive Officer, said the biggest beneficiary has been the EGT Terminal, which is now looking at increasing the size of its export shipments from 60,000 tonne parcels to 80,000 tonnes or more.
The $200 million state-of-the art grain export facility handles corn, wheat, soybeans, soybean meal, and DDGs. The terminal can handle both barge and rail traffic and can accommodate six 110-car trains at time without decoupling the locomotives.
As the first new grain terminal to be built in 25 years in the United States, EGT is equipped with leading edge equipment including two-layer wheat cleaners, robotic shuttle car gate openers, custom-designed storage bins to promote product flow for soybean meal and DDGs, an automated weight system, and telescoping spouts that allow loading without shifting vessels.
Opened in 2012 the terminal, which is a joint venture between Bunge North America, ITOCHU International Inc and STX Pan Ocean, has the capacity to more than double ship calls at the Port of Longview.
At present, the terminal generates roughly 45% of the port’s ship traffic.
“I would think that the fact that you can get in and out at 43 feet now is definitely something all the logistics companies are aware of and are taking into consideration, Kalhgen said.
Last year, export logs were a significant source of income for the port, with thirty log vessel arrivals, a trend that is expected to continue this year as new equipment and facilities are added to meet Asian demands. A major capital project at the port this year is the revitalization of Berth 4 that once serviced the former Continental Grain terminal and has since been abandoned. The project includes having the dock replaced with a lay berth, demolishing and removing the grain silos and preparing the site for redevelopment.
”It’s an asset that had pretty much deteriorated,” Kalhgen said. “What we’ve been trying to put together is a one-of-a-kind-deal where we’ll be getting environmental credits for taking it out piece by piece and rebuilding it with the same configuration as a lay berth.
“Right now, with the grain elevator still being there, we’ll keep it in lay berth status and then when the grain elevator comes down, we’ll start looking at what the final product is going to be.
The Port has also launched its Master Planning process for Barlow Point, a 280-acre piece of undeveloped property downriver from the main port facility that was recently acquired. Located on the deep draft portion Columbia River the site is a prime acreage for future terminal developments.
“Its accessed by rail and highway (as well as the river),” Kalhgen said. “We’re looking at whether it will be two facilities or three facilities and then we’ll send out for RFPS on those.”
Laurie Nelson, Manager of Business Development for the port, said she believes Longview will have a strong 2014. She also said, that with the purchase of a second 481-ton mobile Liebherr harbor crane the port will be looking to attract more high and heavy cargo during the year, pointing out that berths six and seven have on-dock rail where cargo can be lifted directly onto a rail flat bed and shipped to destination without trucking and the need for highway permits.
”Now we have the two cranes, plus we have the on-dock rail capability – were trying to position ourselves as: ‘We meet all you need.’”
“We have the equipment, We have the lay down space. We have the rail connections and we’re four miles from Interstate 5,” Nelson said.
While Longview will consider new opportunities as they present themselves, Nelson said that present plans are to stay in the market sectors they know best, bulk imports and exports and project cargo.
“I don’t think we’re going to be changing that much in the commodities that we handle. We’re not going to be a container port, we’re not going to go after automobiles. We know how to handle bulk cargoes and we’re positioned well for project cargo,” she said.