The state could see the construction of a new intermodal facility, plus move forward with plans for a new deepwater seaport and further develop an existing port, Oregon Shipping Group President Kevin Mannix says.
The state of Oregon has seen a downturn in maritime shipping over the past few years due to labor issues and other problems at the Port of Portland, but the head of an advocacy organization dedicated to the revitalization and development of road, rail, and marine shipping systems and capabilities in Oregon says the state could be poised to make some major investments in shipping infrastructure in the coming years.
According to Oregon Shipping Group (OSG) President Kevin Mannix, the state could see the construction of a new intermodal facility, plus move forward with plans for a new deepwater seaport and further develop an existing port over the next decade. In an exclusive interview with American Shipper, Mannix said he expects work on a new intermodal cargo facility to begin within a matter of months.
“We are heavily engaged in developing plans for an intermodal facility, and we’re focusing on the cities of Millersburg and Lebanon as sites for such facilities,” Mannix said. “Both Millersburg and Lebanon have the features that are most desirable for this and they both have the rail connections that we would need.” Both cities are in northwest Oregon, about 75 miles from the coast.
Mannix, an attorney who spent 10 years in the Oregon state Legislature, predicted that work on the intermodal facility would start within the next two years, and would take about a year to complete.
“We’re hoping that it would start in six months, but there’s a lot of stars that have to line up, and we’re working on those stars right now,” he said, but declined to elaborate further.
He said the Oregon Shipping Group is also looking to assist with the construction of a container-handling facility at the International Port of Coos Bay, and the development of the port’s rail link. The Port of Coos Bay is the second-busiest port in Oregon behind the Port of Portland, and is currently the largest deepwater port between Seattle and San Francisco.
The port operates the Coos Bay Rail Link, a 134-mile line connecting the port to Eugene, Ore. and the national rail network. The line has seen its share of ups and downs over the years, however, including issues associated with aging infrastructure.
“We want to support the enhancement of that rail line and development of the port,” Mannix told American Shipper, adding that the OSG’s lobbying efforts are starting to make headway.
“The Port of Coos Bay is well administered and it’s finally getting political recognition,” he said. “It’s a low population area, but it’s very important to our commerce, and we’re finding people who, as we explain it to them, no one’s disagreed with us.”
The biggest thing on the group’s to-do list however, involves the construction of a new deepwater port at the mouth of the Columbia River, something that Mannix declared to be a strong possibility.
“As Seattle-Tacoma gets busier and busier and slower and slower, we’re going to recognize that we need not just one port facility in Coos Bay, but another port facility somewhere near Astoria (on the Columbia River),” Mannix said. “And I think that we’d be well on our way if we’d have a medium depth port there established pretty quickly, and then it would grow.”
Container shipping in Oregon has taken major hits in the past few years. In February, the port announced that it and terminal management company ICTSI had agreed to terminate a 25-year lease that the two sides entered into just seven years earlier, due to work disruptions hampering productivity at Terminal 6, Oregon’s only deep draft international container terminal.
Between March 2015 and May 2016, the port had already lost nearly all of its container service after carriers Hanjin, Hapag-Lloyd and Westwood Shipping Lines pulled out due to a lingering labor dispute with the International Longshore & Warehouse Union that had played a part in decreased productivity.
The carriers had complained it was taking too long to load and unload ships, and employers blamed a work slowdown by longshore workers and the union, saying that pay disputes and associated grievances have been the primary causes.