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Pasha to import cars through San Francisco

Pier 80 in San Francisco, Calif. could handle up to 150,000 automobiles annually as well as other sorts of roll-on/roll-off and breakbulk cargo, the ocean carrier said in a recent interview with American Shipper.

   The Port of San Francisco expects to see a big boost in cargo as a result of a plan outlined at a meeting of its Port Commission on Tuesday by Pasha Automotive Services.
   Pasha is proposing to create a terminal at Pier 80 on the south side of San Francisco primarily for the import and export of automobiles, though other roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) and breakbulk cargo could also be handled. The terminal would include extensive facilities for the processing of automobiles, including washing, inspection, the addition of accessories, and repairs.
   John Pasha, senior vice president of Pasha Automotive Services, said while it would take several years to ramp up to full capacity, the terminal could eventually handle 96 ships and 150,000 automobiles annually.
   The facility could employ 50 longshoremen — their work will fluctuate depending on the number and size of ships that arrive. It could also add up to 150 new jobs for processors, many of which could be filled by residents living in neighborhoods near the terminal.
   Port commissioners, who indicated their enthusiasm for the plan during the meeting, are expected to vote on whether to approve a 15-year lease with two five-year extensions with Pasha at their next meeting on May 10.
   “This is definitely a full circle moment for us,” John Pasha said in an interview with American Shipper, noting that his father George had handled Toyota’s imports at the city’s Fort Mason in the 1960s. “This was my father’s dream to come back to San Francisco.”
   Peter Dailey, the deputy director of maritime at the Port of San Francisco, said cargo volumes at Pier 80 have been declining since the 2009 economic recession. Vessel calls declined from 20 in the port’s 2010-11 fiscal year when 34,049 tons of cargo were handled to eight last year when the terminal handled just 2,998 tons.
   No ships have used the facility this year, and he said Metro Ports, which has operated the facility since September 2008, has agreed with the port to terminate its lease due to a persistent lack of cargo.
   The terminal is hampered in part because of limited rail tunnel clearances, and vehicles would be trucked in and out of the terminal to local dealers.
   Automobiles are handled in other San Francisco Bay area ports such as Richmond and Benecia, and the Port of Oakland has even said it might consider handling ro-ro and breakbulk cargo to diversify in the wake of the decision by Ports American and TIL Group to close their container terminal.
   But John Pasha pointed to several trends that he says bode well for a new automobile terminal in San Francisco. He said automobile sales are expected to remain strong. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that in 2015 a record 17.5 million cars and light trucks were sold in the U.S.
   Strong sales are expected to continue because the average age of cars have been climbing. The U.S. Department of Transportation Statistics says the average age of cars and light trucks has increased from 8.4 years back in 1995 to 11.4 years in 2014.
     John Pasha said some terminals handling automobiles on the West Coast, including his company’s 200-acre terminal in San Diego are starting to run out of capacity. Others such as the 140-acre terminal it operates in the Port of Grays Harbor in Aberdeen, Wash., do have room for growth.
   He said it is expensive to drive cars to dealers in Northern California and Nevada from major automobile terminals in San Diego and Port Hueneme, Calif., and automobile manufacturing is booming in Mexico.
   While many autos manufactured in Mexico are shipped to the U.S. via rail, Pasha says there is an uptick in short-sea shipping from Mexico to U.S.
   “In 2016, more new cars are imported to California from Mexico than from Japan,” according to the Port of San Francisco. “Numerous automakers are adding production capacity in Mexico, including General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Hyundai and Mazda. By 2020, Mexico is anticipated to build one in four vehicles driven in North America.”
   John Pasha said his terminal would also very much like to handle the electric automobiles that are manufactured in Fremont, Calif. by Tesla and exported around the world.

Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.