Port container traffic revival eyed, Lewiston Tribune, May 14, 2015

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Representatives from the Port of Portland’s contracted operator are in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley this week as they try to re-establish the port’s container terminal.

Two officials with ICTSI, which has the contract to run Portland’s container terminal, are in the process of meeting with customers of the Port of Lewiston, which hopes to get the service up and running again.

“Portland is still a strong market, and (ICTSI) believes they can find a different line, maybe one that hasn’t called on the port previously,” Lewiston Port Manager David Doeringsfeld said during Wednesday’s port commission meeting. Doeringsfeld met with the representatives Tuesday.

For the first time since its founding in 1970, the Lewiston port isn’t shipping containers. Shippers Hapag-Lloyd and Hanjin, which previously handled nearly all of Lewiston’s containers, withdrew from the Port of Portland earlier this year.

“Right now there is no service in Portland for containers,” Doeringsfeld said. “So if we were to send containers down to Portland, there’s no one to send them to.”

An ICTSI spokesperson confirmed its representatives were in meetings Tuesday and Wednesday in the Lewiston area. Those representatives are projected to make upriver visits until Friday to assess customer needs as they work to establish new contracts with shipping lines and return container service to Portland.

ICTSI’s spokesperson said the firm is hopeful it can re-establish the service within 12 to 18 months.

Doeringsfeld said after Wednesday’s meeting he is also hopeful ICTSI can continue the container service, though Lewiston is also exploring other possibilities.

“There are other options being looked at that would take containers on barge down to other lower Columbia ports, and we’re also working with customers on rail options out of the Port of Lewiston,” he said.

Doeringsfeld said during the commission meeting that ICTSI is speaking with customers who relied on the shipping service, like Clearwater Paper and Brocke and Sons, and plans to incorporate those needs into negotiations with carriers.

Clearwater Paper spokesman Matt Van Vleet confirmed ICTSI made a visit to the company, but said it was just a routine meeting and he didn’t have more information.

Brocke and Sons Vice President Bert Brocke said early Wednesday the firm was expecting a visit from ICTSI, but couldn’t be reached later for further comment.

In other business Wednesday, the commission approved the publication of the port’s 2016 fiscal year budget, along with a $420,000 tax levy, which is $30,000 less than previous years. Both will now be published for review. The budget and levy will be formally adopted following a public hearing at noon June 10.

The most significant expenditure in next year’s budget is $950,000 for a new fiber-optic network the commission is developing in Lewiston, with plans to sell access to telecommunications companies. A large portion of that will be covered by funds from the port’s savings.

Doeringsfeld said officials are talking with the city of Lewiston about installing conduit for the fiber-optic lines alongside a downtown stormwater construction project that began last month. He said there is no option to install aerial fiber-optic lines downtown, so it would be more cost-effective to install the conduit underground while the downtown area is torn up for the upgrade.

There is a seven-month waiting period for fiber orders, so Doeringsfeld said the network may not be up and running before the end of the calendar year as previously hoped.

Moroney may be contacted at [email protected] or at (208) 848-2232.