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River Barges Might Use Port

by Al Gibbs, Staff Writer
The News Tribune, August 21, 2004

Containers might be coming to the Port of Tacoma on barges for the first time, after "K" Line America, Inc., brings its export business here from Portland later this year.

The Japanese container line takes 50 or 60 containers a week by barge down the Snake and Columbia rivers to Portland, where they're loaded aboard outbound vessels that late this year will be moving to Tacoma. The company might be able to barge the containers to Tacoma to load.

"We haven't decided" how to get export containers from Portland to Tacoma, Peter Bennett, "K" Lines' vice president of operations on the West Coast, said Friday. "I don't know about barges."

Other possibilities include by truck or rail.

The subject arose after the port and International Transportation Service, Inc., approved an agreement that will keep "K" Line in Tacoma for at least another 20 years at a much larger terminal. ITS, a subsidiary of the parent "K" Line company, operates the Husky Terminal at Tacoma in a joint venture.

The agreement was ratified Thursday by the port commission.

"K" Line calls at a 33-acre terminal for which it pays $1.8 million a year. Next year, "K" Line and Husky will move to Terminal 3-4 when the terminal is remodeled after Taiwanese line Evergreen America, Inc., moves to Pierce County Terminal.

"K" Line will take the 74-acre terminal, at a rent of $5.2 million a year, then pay $7 million annually in a year or so when the terminal is expanded to 93 acres.

That doesn't include charges for renting cranes and the straddle carriers that move containers onto rail cars.

"It's sad to move out of (the current) terminal," said John Miller, executive vice president of ITS. "But we're certainly delighted.

"This port is the most forward-looking (port) of any we deal with."

"We have big plans for this port," agreed Steve Rubin, vice president of liner operations for "K" Line.

Among other things, "K" Line is acquiring ever-larger container ships.

The line also brings cars to Tacoma.

"K" Line is also responsible for some barging business out of Tacoma. It carries aircraft fuselage sections from Japan to Tacoma in oversized containers and places them on barges here for transport to Boeing's Everett 777 assembly plant.

Barges from a river system that helps support the Portland port is another matter.

"We are concerned about how we can continue to support upriver barge service," Bennett said.

Generally, river barges are smaller and require less water depth than deep-sea barges. "K" Line wants to move containers as little as possible, so moving from river equipment to ocean barges might not be financially feasible.

"It might not be something we're involved in," said Brendan Dugan, the port's senior director of container matters.

Added business planning manager Doug Ljungren: "From our point of view, we don't want to discourage them."

The question will be discussed during a session with Oregon Agriculture Department and other officials Thursday in Portland. There is, said one official, "tremendous interest in the current critical situation."

Agricultural products barged down the river in containers range from frozen french fries to tightly compressed hay bales.

"We hope to continue to support the barge system and will be reviewing how to best serve the Columbia River shippers under our new vessel rotation," Bennett said.

Related Pages:
Lewiston Container Shipping, Fact Sheet, 1997 Port of Lewiston
Portland Container Shipping, Fact Sheet, 2002 Port of Portland

Staff writer Al Gibbs covers regional energy issues.
River Barges Might Use Port
The News Tribune, August 21, 2004

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