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Port Official Reports Exports 'Sexy' Again

by Barbara Coyner
Capital Press, January 9, 2012

Port's grain exports increase 22 percent; log exports restart

Despite the four-month closure of the Columbia-Snake river system last year, the Port of Portland saw an upswing in exports, especially among agricultural shipments.

"Exports are becoming sexy again," said Sam Ruda, who directs marine activities for the Port of Portland. "For years, it's been all about imports, but now everyone is talking about exports as engines of growth. It's not high-tech this time, but old-school ag, and it seems like the industry is coming back."

The Port of Portland saw a 36 percent increase in business in 2010, with growth in grain, steel and minerals shipments the most noticeable. Because of bad harvests in Russia and Australia, grain exports increased 22 percent, making the port one of the strongest grain exporters in the U.S.

The port also saw its first log export shipment in 14 years, as logs were sent downriver in July, most of them bound for China.

"We need more capacity, because some markets are still not being served," said Ruda, noting that rehabilitating the locks on the Columbia-Snake river system and deepening the channel have both helped capacity.

Carriers Tidewater, Hanjin and Westwood continue to serve the ports, as well, keeping shipping options consistent.

Given the four-month shutdown of the inland port system from December 2010 to March 2011, Ruda pointed out that the Port of Portland offered its shipper support program as a way to keep exports flowing.

The Port of Lewiston, Idaho, benefited most from the program, taking advantage of the $400 subsidy per container, as 800 were moved by rail instead of by barge.

"This was a good example of stakeholders banding together," Ruda said of the program, subsidized by the Port of Portland. "You have to be nimble in today's business."

As the Port of Longview brings its new grain terminal online, other West Coast ports are watching. It is billed as the first facility of its kind built in 25 years.

Columbia Grain Vice President Amer Badawi, however, anticipates no shipping changes for his company in the near future. Ruda addressed a group of suppliers recently at an appreciation banquet in Clarkston, Wash.

Barbara Coyner
Port Official Reports Exports 'Sexy' Again
Capital Press, January 9, 2012

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