Portland is the Loser
It's difficult to see beyond the PR gloss that port authorities manufacture
Large port authorities excel at the spin of public relations. Most observers can't see beyond the PR gloss that ports manufacture on slick paper in full color.
Fortunately, there are independent information sources, such as Marple's Pacific Northwest Letter, the Seattle-based business newsletter. In its current issue, Marple's offers an excellent dissection of West Coast ports.
The most striking information is a chart comparing those ports on container tonnage in 2004. Editor Mike Parks reports that, "The Port of Portland, which last year lost two container shipping lines, Hyundai and K-Line, was the big loser in coast container trade."
While other West Coast ports -- including Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Calif., Tacoma, Wash., and Seattle -- had gains in full containers ranging from 1.5% to 21.3%, Portland suffered a decline of 4.8%. When the same measure was applied to all containers, Portland's decline was 19.1%. Marple's drew its data from the Pacific Maritime Association.
The most dramatic measurement which Marple's published was West Coast market share. The big guns are in California: Los Angeles, 39.8%, Long Beach 29.2% and Oakland, 10.7%. Among all West Coast ports, Portland brings up the rear at 1.6% of market share, behind Tacoma at 9.2% and Seattle at 8.8%.
Oregon congressmen and senators have bled and sweat to obtain a federal appropriation to deepen the Columbia River shipping channel to bring more business to the Port of Portland. This newspaper has been skeptical of that mammoth public works project for environmental reasons and also because the Port of Portland's share of West Coast container traffic is tiny.
The gist of Marple's report is that the Port of Portland is a negligible maritime player and unlikely to be anything but that.
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