December 28, 2012






Port authority eyes upward shipping trend
 by Edward French


    The Eastport Port Authority expects to continue on its recent upward trajectory, with a 2013 budget that will be nearly double the port authority's revenue in 2006. At its December 17 meeting, the port authority board approved a $1.55 million budget for next year that is conservative in not including potential wood chip shipments or possible lease income from a wood pellet manufacturer next year. The port authority makes quarterly adjustments to its budget as revenue projections change, though.
     Port Director Chris Gardner says he believes the port's 2013 revenues "will be noticeably better than this year." Regarding wood chip operations, Gardner said that the port authority has been in touch with "a very large player in the worldwide market that has shown interest in partnering with the port." He believes that wood chip shipments will begin in 2013 and says that they did not start this year because of depressed global market conditions. The port authority is eyeing a technological advancement for heat treatment of wood chips that would not require any additional investment at the Port of Eastport. The new technology would allow for wood chip shipments into the European market, which requires a phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin.
     After speaking with officials with the Woodland mill, Gardner feels confident that the pulp tonnage shipped next year will be similar to that of recent years. The 417,448 metric tons shipped this year will be average for the past three years, with 430,026 shipped in 2011 and 409,609 in 2010. The planned new warehouse at the Estes Head terminal should help ensure that the mill ships the maximum amount through the port.
     Although there will be a lull in cow shipments during the winter, Gardner expects that during 2013 the business will be about the same as this year. The cattle business began in 2010 with 2,286 cows shipped and then increased in 2011 to 20,515 cows. This year the number of cows dropped to 7,355. The port authority is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) so that the four-hour holding time before they are loaded on a ship can be increased to 12 hours. The time increase would help with the logistics of loading, as cows could be loaded all at once. Gardner said USDA officials had "nothing but absolute praise for the operations in Eastport" and had noted that "the cows were being extremely well cared for."
      Because of the increase in shipping activity, the board also approved the creation of a new position of operations/maintenance manager. Charlie Leppin, who has been handling those duties, will now be just the tugboat operations manager. Gardner noted that the tugs are busier now, with 140 tug working days this year, and there is now more maintenance work. He said that the new position will result in only a $25,000 increase in the budget because of savings that will be achieved by not having to hire additional part-time help or contract labor. The new position will be advertised.
     During the meeting Gardner noted that property tax payments by the port authority to the city will be increasing to $17,483, with payments in lieu of taxes bringing the total payments to the city to $37,483.
     Three members, Ricky Camick, Bob Peacock and Bob Wallace, will be leaving the board at the end of the year, and Gardner extended his appreciation to all of them for their assistance and service.
      At a recent Maine Better Transportation Association/Maine Department of Transportation conference in Augusta, Gardner spoke with personnel of New Brunswick Southern Railway, which operates the Woodland mill's rail line. Gardner felt confident that J.D. Irving Ltd., which owns New Brunswick Southern, would partner with the port authority on a rail line brought closer to the port.
     The board approved a change in the tugboat tariff rates charged to shipping companies by the port authority, so that the charge for both of the larger tugs will be the same. Gardner said the new tariff rates are "still one of the cheapest rates within the market."
      Perry Marine & Construction's charge for driving new pilings for floats on the north side of the breakwater this fall ended up being under the $60,000 limit the port authority had requested.
     The fee for the services of Charles Colgan of the University of Southern Maine to prepare an economic study to assist with funding requests for the breakwater rebuilding project will be $11,583.
     The port authority barge that has been leased by Ocean Renewable Power Company will be returned to the port authority at the end of the year. The board approved the execution of a contract that would allow an exchange between the two parties, with the port authority gaining a hydraulic crane system and generators on the barge while having to do some barge maintenance and repair work.

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