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Portland on Mission to Secure First-call Status

by Greg Knowler
Cargonews Asia, May 28, 2007

Portland is going after East Coast and Midwest-bound cargo, and the Pacific Northwest river port plans to become first port of call for transpacific vessels offloading boxes heading inland. With the Southern California port complex of LA-Long Beach handling the huge gateway volumes, Portland wants to capture the containerised cargo destined for second-tier US cities.

"The big inland hubs are served by the large port gateways, but the express trains don't call at cities such as Salt Lake, Denver, St Louis and Minneapolis," said Greg Borossay, Portland general manager for liner development, marine division.

"The Southern California to Chicago rail volumes are huge. But because of the inland logistics in the US, a lot of the cargo from shippers heading for the smaller cities gets lost in the huge rush to get the LA-Chicago train moving."

Many of the carrier alliances have mixed contracts with the railroads. Cosco, Yang Ming and Hanjin have BNSF contracts, while "K" Line is with Union Pacific.

Following the congestion at LA-Long Beach in 2004, the port of Oakland began picking up first calls, but the city has Union Pacific rail only. Anyone calling at Oakland with a BNSF contract will have to rail the freight inland via LA-Long Beach.

Borossay said one of Portland's liner customers carries cargo for a Denver shipper into the US through five separate ports. This leaves the shipper fighting for space on the main express trains, or sitting around waiting until the rail car is fully loaded with cargo. "That is not ideal, and we are talking to the shipper about routing all his imports through Portland. He will avoid the intermodal troubles and save a lot of time."

Container throughput at the port's Columbia River terminal is expected to reach 250,000 TEUs this year, and its Master Plan 2020 predicts a throughput of 677,000 boxes by 2020.

Borossay said even though volumes at the port were growing, both in imports and exports, Portland was looking at leasing the terminal.

"We feel the need to look at the present model. We are the port authority and the terminal operator and that hasn't been the most successful model. It will probably be a carrier-stevedore consortium that ends up leasing the terminal," he said.

Greg Knowler
Portland on Mission to Secure First-call Status
Cargonews Asia, May 28, 2007

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