About container terminals and gold mines … A reprint of Vol. 8 – 14 (August 4, 2006)

Nathan Rushton of THE EUREKA REPORTER, titled his July 12th story: “Developing the new silk road?”

The article began with the question, “Can the Port of Humboldt Bay be a participant in the new ‘Silk Road’ as experts predict West Coast shipping trade traffic with China will triple by 2020?”

Mr. Wilson Lacy, the Port of Oakland’s Maritime Director, addressed the Port of Humboldt Bay Harbor District Board of governors and discussed the potential for a partnership in order to capitalize on the region’s rapidly increasing shipping trade.

The article went on to state, “With the proverbial carrot dangling in front of the Harbor District, which has expressed interest in developing its Redwood Dock facility into a marine terminal to increase jobs, Lacy told the commissioners that container shipping terminals are the gold mine of today.”

But whenever there’s a ‘proverbial carrot’ you can be sure there’s also a proverbial ‘fly in the ointment’, and whenever there’s a ‘gold mine’ at stake, you can be sure that someone else staked the claim.

As a sine qua non, Mr. Lacy said that Humboldt County’s port can’t take off without a viable railroad. “The railroads are essential”, he said. “We have no other way to move goods.”

Coincidentally, the meeting room was filled with North Coast Railroad Authority Officials.

Following the presentation, Mr. Lacy was asked to describe the proposed short-sea service between the Port of Humboldt Bay and the Port of Oakland. He should have been asked to describe the ‘gold mine’.

The Humboldt Harbor Commissioners would have jumped with joy if they could have known about the mother lode at the North Carolina State Port Authority. Double-digit growth in container cargo helped it post record revenue and profits in fiscal 2006, it was just announced. Revenues totaled $ 46.9 million, an increase of 32 percent over the previous year, and a profit of $ 11.7 million was reported, the port’s largest in 15 years. And that’s supposed to be a ‘gold mine’? Hundreds of precious acres along the North Carolina waterfront are being consumed by port operations, and for what? For a paltry $ 11.7 million net dollars? Real Estate developers would generate ten times that amount for the use of that land. Where are the watch dogs?

According to a number of reports that have appeared in newspapers and journals these past few months, port officials by the dozens are being paid astronomical salaries and bonuses. The profit pictures indicate that these salaries surely aren’t based upon what is seen on the bottom line, but then again, there’s that ‘gold mine’ we keep hearing about …