Factions Cheer Grain Shipby Steve Brown
Capital Press, February 9, 2012
Animosities put aside as first ship is loaded with soft white wheat at EGT grain terminal
LONGVIEW, Wash. -- The first shipload of grain from the new EGT grain terminal will be on its way to South Korea by this weekend.
EGT officials and members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union stood at the Columbia River waterfront to watch the ship, the Hong Kong-registered Full Sources, arrive Feb. 7.
The event was peaceful, a far cry from the six months of protests during a dispute over the union's demand to work at the terminal.
The ILWU represents workers at every other operation at the port, as well as at most ports on the West Coast.
"We're excited to be moving the right direction and do what we do best -- loading and unloading ships," said Byron Jacobs, secretary-treasurer of ILWU Local 21.
There is no lingering animosity, he said, just "positive feelings. ... We're ready to move forward and mend our relationships."
"EGT is open for business," said Larry Clarke, EGT's chief executive officer.
As for any repercussions from the dispute, he said "this development also helps strengthen the partnership between EGT and local workers from the ILWU, and we look forward to continuing to work together."
The ship will carry 57,000 metric tons of Washington-grown soft white wheat to South Korea. Loading was proceeding somewhat slowly, EGT spokesman Matthew Beck said. The ship was to remain in port until about Saturday, but the eventual turnaround time for a ship will be 24 to 30 hours.
EGT manager Jerry Gibson said that once the operation is up to speed, the largely automated grain terminal will continuously unload 110-car trains -- each taking about 4.5 hours -- and load between 150 and 200 ships each year bound for customers in Asia and South America.
The $200 million complex is the first export grain terminal built in the U.S. in 25 years. EGT broke ground in July 2009. It was designed to be faster, more flexible and more efficient than any other terminal.
The average load rate of 3,000 metric tons per hour surpasses the rate at other export elevators in the Northwest, which move between 750 and 2,500 metric tons.
It has 36 silos, including five shipping bins and six bins capable of holding soybean meal and distillers grain. The facility holds 4.7 million bushels of grain. Valleyford, Wash., farmer Jeff Emtman said he was impressed by the terminal.
"It's good to see the efficiencies they're bringing in," he said after hearing an EGT presentation Feb. 7 at the Spokane Ag Expo. "Transportation is a big portion of our expense getting our crop to market. Their efficiencies hopefully will pass down to getting a better price for us."
Hermiston, Ore., wheat farmer Sam Myers planned to ask his marketer whether the grain from his 2,000-acre wheat operation would pass through the Longview terminal.
"It means they are interested in the grain produced in this area, making it accessible to end-producers and making us as competitive as can be," he said. "I think it's an awesome deal that someone had the foresight and vision that far ahead and say, 'We see a need to deliver grain to the world.'"
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