Port Exec Wyatt is Optimisticby Barbara Coyner, Freelance Writer
Capital Press, October 14, 2005
CLARKSTON, Wash. - What impacts the mouth of the Columbia River definitely ripples up the Snake to inland seaports at Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Wash. Yet despite no firm deals with trans-Pacific cargo carriers at this point, Port of Portland executive director Bill Wyatt told a suppliers' banquet audience that he's optimistic about the Columbia-Snake river system's future.
"I have no announcement to make yet, but we are involved in talks with specific carriers that want to be involved with the Port of Portland," Wyatt told listeners. "There's an enormous amount of shipping capacity headed to the West Coast."
Much of Wyatt's audience had heard the devastating news a year ago that two of the four container shipping lines serving the Port of Portland had pulled the plug on service there. The ripple effect in that case erased much of the container business Potlatch Corporation contributed to the Port of Lewiston. Dwindling container shippers left the Port of Portland and its dependent ports without service to Japan, Potlatch Corporation's largest Asian customer for paperboard. Although the gap in container carriers still dogs the river network, Wyatt said talks with new carriers are looking good. So are some other developments at the Port of Portland, he said.
"It's been an extraordinary year. We've made some adjustments and we're now looking at the world ahead of us, and there's reason for optimism."
A big change at the Portland hub is that the port now sees more import than export traffic, and Wyatt said the port figures that for every $500 of export business, there is now $2,000 of import business. That means the port has had to reevaluate its strategies.
"It's been a struggle because we've always been an export port. We have to attract imports to do exports, so we have to tend to the import needs of our customers. We're now having conversations with key carriers that want to consider using the Port of Portland as a gateway," he said.
A big plus is that both Burlington Northern and Union Pacific railroads have begun to price competitively with Tacoma and Seattle, making the Portland port more attractive to potential customers. "We're giving BN and UP unimpeded access," Wyatt added.
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