Monday, November 15, 2010

Portland Port Will Pay to Retain Inland Cargo During Shutdown of Rivers

The governing board for the Oregon-state Port of Portland has approved a plan to subsidize truck and rail shipments from inland Columbia and Snake River ports while key locks on the river are closed for 16 weeks starting in December.

Currently the cheapest route for upland exporters to reach Portland is via barge along the two rivers, each which feature lock systems set to be closed during the four-month period. The locks at The Dalles, John Day and Lower Monument dams are set to be replaced by the US Army Corps of Engineers during the closure.

To prevent the affected exporters from bypassing Portland and shipping straight to the ports of Tacoma or Seattle, Portland officials plan to pay upland exporters $400 per container to ship to Portland via rail and $250 per container to ship via truck during the locks closure. More than 2,000 containers a year are barged from inland ports through the two rivers lock systems to Portland.

"We'd like to minimize that and retain as much cargo as possible during the closure," the port's public affairs director Tom Imeson told The Columbian.

The Portland port commission agreed to allocate $800,000 to subsidize the truck and rail payments. While the payments will not cover the full cost of shipping, they would cover the savings exporters might experience by shipping to Tacoma or Seattle during the closure.

While the subsidies will help inland exporters, barge companies will see no such support. Earlier this month, one of the barge firms ann9ounced it would have to temporarily lay off 200 workers during the locks closure.