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Shippers Seek Port of Portland Subsidies

by Associated Press
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 3, 2011

Subsidies offset increased cost of shipping containers to Portland

(Will Koenig/Capital Press) Graphic of higher reported price to ship a bushel of wheat to Portland. SALEM, Ore. -- Several shippers have signed up for Port of Portland subsidies to help offset the cost of truck or rail transportation while locks on the Columbia and Snake rivers are repaired.

The port has already pledged $800,000 for subsidies, the Capital Press in Salem reported.

Under the program, each shipper receives a payment per container, regardless of size.

For example, if the container originates from the Port of Lewiston, the allowance is $400. For those from the Port of Boardman or the Port of Umatilla, the allowance is $250 per container.

The program is designed to keep the port cost-competitive for cargo and is intended for shippers that would otherwise ship containers to Portland by barge, said Josh Thomas, marine and industrial development media relations manager for the Port of Portland.

The navigation locks were taken out of service on Dec. 10 to replace aging gates and are scheduled to reopen in March.

Tom Hammond, president of Columbia Grain, which is a tenant of Terminal 5 at the Port of Portland, said several buyers purchased grain in advance of the closure. Otherwise, he said, business volume is "kind of normal."

Hammond said the Willamette Valley had a large wheat crop this year, but it's relatively small compared to the amount the company draws from the Columbia-Snake river system.

He said Columbia Grain's volume in 2010 will be greater than the two previous years, but volume in December is not any larger than volume in October or November.

Hammond said the river closure reduces the company's capacity but "we just reduce our exports until we get the river back."

Associated Press
Shippers Seek Port of Portland Subsidies
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 3, 2011

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