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Port Reimburses Shippers as Rivers' Locks Shut Down

by Barbara Coyner
Capital Press, November 24, 2010

Details announced as Columbia-Snake system closes Dec. 10

(Tidewater Barge Lines) A barge transits the lock at the McNary Dam on the Columbia River. The Port of Portland is providing aid to shippers to help with transportation costs while the locks along the Columbia and Snake rivers are under repair. The Port of Portland has pledged $800,000 to assist inland ports, shippers and steamship lines as the Columbia-Snake marine highway shuts down for lock repairs on Dec. 10.

The Shipper Support Program, designed for container shipments, is targeted at shippers who have a recent history of shipping through Portland's Terminal 6 using container-on-barge services.

Shipments passing through the ports at Boardman and Umatilla will be reimbursed at a rate of $250 per full load container, while the Port of Lewiston shippers will get $400 per full container.

"The idea is not to supply a complete reimbursement, but to keep rates through the Port of Portland competitive," said Dan Pippenger, the port's general manager for marine operations and marketing. "A secondary reason is to provide relief to upriver shippers who have been long-time supporters of the upriver barge system."

Pippenger noted that the assistance plan is multi-faceted, with the port reaching out to steamship lines that rely on upriver barge traffic as part of their larger scope.

Inland ports will also gain assistance in routing shipments from barges to other means of transportation. Shippers at Boardman and Umatilla will have trucking options, with rates comparable to trucking to the Puget Sound. The Port of Lewiston will be able to choose between trucking or direct BNSF rail links to Terminal 6.

"The Port of Portland has been excellent and very proactive," said Dean Brocke, the president of George Brocke and Sons at Kendrick, Idaho. The legume processor plans to keep its containerized cargo moving at normal rates during the river closure, Brocke said. "The Port of Portland has devised a good rail program out of Lewiston, and it offers a nice division of costs, showing their commitment to us. This will be extraordinarily helpful for farmers and shippers."

Pippenger said the port's plan is to provide per-container reimbursement on a first come, first served basis.

"Shippers can send us their invoices and we'll process them as they are received," he said. The assistance program will extend throughout the 16-week river closure, or until the money runs out, he added.

Pippenger said that the assistance also encompasses some steamship service because those shippers have captured part of their market servicing the inland ports.

For example, from December to March of last year, 41 percent of Hapag-Lloyd line's export cargo loading out of Terminal 6 originated from the upriver ports at Umatilla, Boardman and Lewiston. Similarly, Portland's largest ocean carrier service, provided through the CKYH Alliance, used the barge service to load about 7.5 percent of its cargo in the same time period.

"This will help Terminal 6 continue its international market access for regional shippers," Pippenger said of the assistance program. He noted the $800,000 has come out of the Port of Portland's general fund, with commissioners and staff agreeing it is a vital mission during the river closure.

Barbara Coyner
Port Reimburses Shippers as Rivers' Locks Shut Down
Capital Press, November 24, 2010

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