Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Port Problems

With years of constant conflict, accusations of back room deals and wrong-doing; the Port of Astoria seems to be the biggest political pain in the ass we have.

County residents dump tons of money into this black hole with very little to show for it. There is always a carrot being held out just before our noses, but they port has yet to become self sufficient. Maybe it’s time we consider selling the Port’s assets and letting private industry have a stab at making some of the port functions profitable.

The only the thing the port seems to be doing right at this time is the cruise ships. These ships directly contribute a lot to the local economy of local merchants, or so I hear. I’d like to see some figures on that. However I don’t see any of the other port activities contributing to the financial well being of this community. It seems to me we’d all be better off closing it down, decommissioning the board and letting a private interest take over portions and add revenue to the community rather than constantly draining it. Am I the only person considering this?


Blogger darev2005 said...

Hmmm.... I shouldn't have any say in it since i don't live there. But I may one day. I'd like to hear g's take on it. He's the only expert on the subject I know. I suggested they turn it into a training camp for port commissioners.

6:59 AM  
Blogger mark said...

The notion of selling port assets to the private sector to be run in a for-profit manner has been discussed before. I'd bet there would be little private sector interest:

* There may be privately-owned and operated airports somewhere out there, but I can't think of any on the west coast. (Vandalia, in Ilwaco, doesn't count.) I suspect there's a good reason for this.

* Tongue Point was owned by the Washington Group, a private sector entity, for several years. I don't know why they wanted out, and we can question the wisdom of the Port stepping in, but this private enterprise attempt was unable to make Tongue Point work.

* Private sector marinas certainly exist elsewhere, and are presumably profitable. A private-sector marina at the Port of Astoria would compete against publicly-subsidized marinas in Ilwaco, Chinook, Hammond, and Warrenton.

* The Port of Astoria docks aren't really used much these days for the heavy cargos they were designed for. There are some private docks upriver in Longview, Kelso, Portland and Vancouver. These private upriver docks are, presumably, profitable; but I'd guess that's because they're tied into a larger economic activity like log exports, grain exports, car imports, potash imports, etc. Not a bad private sector model, but I don't know who needs that kind of facility in Astoria.

Pretty rude of me to take up so much of your space; sorry about that. It's just that it's so rare that we talk about topics I actually know something about! Carry on.

8:34 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

No problem, Mark. I was hoping to open this discussion, so feel free to add more comments as you see fit. The main problem I see with our Port is the leadership of the commissioners. This problem has been on-going for several years. If I recall correctly none of the last four Port Managers left their positions under happy circumstances.

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sell it? Might be tough, but it hasn't exactly paid much in the way of dividends to the CC taxpayers of late if ever. I'm not an expert on the port by any stretch, but..... The POA has been snookered by the up river ports for a hundred years. Anytime Astoria got a 1st class go getter director, the POP hired him away, diffusing any progress and leaving Astoria to stumble around tripping over it's shoelaces. When the trestle over Young's Bay was pulled out around 1980, that was the death knell for cargo and longshoremen at the POA in any meaningful sense. Shipping logs is cutting your own throat when you could ship finished products or at least lumber. The current fiasco regarding a log shipping operation will not happen, but it certainly could piss off current port tenets. Former Astorian Bill Wyatt is currently the director of the POP has Astoria's best interests at heart when he says the POA should stick to it's niche. Port officials may need to be appointed by the Governor so we don't have to re invent the wheel every few years.

11:48 AM  
Blogger g said...

I'll be the token Port of Astoria cheerleader. I do and always have believed in the Port to be an economic generator for Clatsop County. What many don't realize is the economic advantages the port authority has over other local governments. It is much more free to enlist in economic enterprises. I could write a book on how we got where we are today so I won't even try to sum up what needs to happen.

My in a nustshell verison is the Port needs to subscribe to the master plan that is in place and update it as necessary and continue down the development path it is on.

In my own blog, I am writing a series on why exporting logs is not the answer. When I get time, I will elaborate and document the necessary examples of why log exporting should be taken off the table immediately.

My humble opinion is the port should be doing more during this slow economy to bolster our local businesses and help shore them up during this rough time. The boat haulout is the most important development in recent history and every step should be taken to make that facility better. The revenue potential of that one facility has the ability to make the port self sufficient. The current commission is incapable of understanding the economics of it (otherwise they wouldn't be suggesting log exports).

As for the cruise ships, Guy, you are correct. The cruise ship industry is no exception to the constraints of our global economy. That being said, cruise ship calls are still maintaining close to what they have been in past years. I don't recall the exact impact to the local community but it is in the millions. Our local merchants should be up in arms at any industry that threatens our cruise ship industry. Log ships would be a direct threat to the cruise ship industry.

There is so much more to say but in brevity of writing, I will stop here.

7:47 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Tongue Point is yet another rabbit hole for money. Nothing significant has happened there since the Navy left decades ago. It was going to be an auto import destination and a place for ship breaking. If private industry couldn't make something happen there I doubt the Port will have any better luck.

Someone told me the East End Mooring docks are falling apart.

The present leadership at the port is in way too deep and they need to learn to run the port like a business.

5:11 AM  

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