One of numerous coal export projects proposed for the Pacific Northwest took a step forward this week as the Port of Morrow, Oregon signed letters of intent with two manufacturing companies to build 20 barges that would be used to aid in the export of coal from Oregon to Asia.
Under the agreements, Gunderson Marine and Vigor Industrial would earn more than $75 million to build the barges for coal mining and export company Ambre Energy.
“We need projects like this in Oregon,” Gunderson CEO Bill Furman said. “This is an amazing opportunity.”
The so-called Morrow Pacific Project, which still requires financing and permits, calls for coal to be imported from Montana and Wyoming via railcars, to a transloading facility at the Port of Morrow.
It would then be loaded onto the enclosed barges and shipped down the Columbia River to the Port of St. Helens, where it would be loaded onto cargo ships bound for Japan and other Asian countries.
The plan is one of half a dozen coal export projects proposed for at or near ports in Oregon and Washington, including at the Port of Longview, where Millennium Bulk Terminals has applied for permits to build a $600 million terminal in a bid to become one of the largest coal exporters in North America. Coal companies have also submitted permits to build export terminals at or near Port Westward near Clatskanie and Port of Bellingham. Two other proposals have surfaced in Coos Bay and Hoquiam.
There’s been opposition to some projects by various environmental groups worried about the potential of escaping coal dust, but supporters cite the local and regional jobs that would be created among the reasons to move forward to the projects.
Hundreds of local workers are expected to be employed during construction, according to the project applicant, Ambre Energy.
In a prepared statement released July 30, the two contracting companies said that Gunderson Marine would be paid more than $55 million to build 15 of the barges, while Vigor Industrial would receive more than $20 million to build five barges.
Ambre Energy says it expects construction of the barges to begin by mid-2013.