Grays Harbor!

We took note of Bill Virgin’s remarks in the Seattle P-I about the Port of Seattle, and we followed up with Kristen Millares Bolt’s story about the port’s low efficiency rating. What those capable newspaper reporters were writing about is not “news”, however.

Washington State’s Governor Chris Gregoire released her Container Ports Initiative on January 18th, and the document makes it clear that the above reports came as no surprise to her. “The ports of Seattle and Tacoma serve as vital international gateways for the import and export of goods and provide a critical foundation for our state’s trade economy,” she said.

She added that while Washington’s ports are well-positioned to grow dramatically in the coming years, failure to act now could mean losing container traffic to competitors on the West Coast, in British Columbia or in Mexico.

The Governor’s Container Ports Initiative emphasized the need for the following collaborative strategies:
1. Increase mainline rail capacity in Washington.
2. Improve truck freight movement.
3. Work to resolve land use compatibility and protection issues.

The Container Ports Initiative is a part of Governor Gregoire’s Next Washington plan, a ten-year “business plan” that recognizes the economic needs of the state and its citizens.

“The Next Washington is my vision for our state – to build on our success and to recognize the opportunity we have before us,” said the governor. “It will take leadership and determination,” she said, “and I believe that our citizens deserve nothing less.” This “leadership and determination” will no doubt address the cavalier performances at the Port of Seattle reported on by the Seattle P-I reporters. The “citizens deserve nothing less”, after all.

And when it comes to recognizing “the opportunity we have before us”, port officials need to look no farther than the critical backlog of containers at Deltaport up in British Columbia. Windstorms have caused a pile-up of close to 7,000 containers, and the resulting congestion has forced some vessels to wait at anchor to unload and others to be diverted to alternate ports.

Officials at Evergreen Lines’s have cited avalanches and derailments as causes of past disruptions, but place the present congestion in a “disaster status”. These officials describe the problem as worse than the lengthy delays caused by the four-week truckers’ strike in 2005, which cost Canadian retailers an estimated $ 100 million. Could the inefficient Port of Seattle have cashed in on this? To some extent, maybe, but only by appearing to be the lesser of two evils. “Leadership and determination” is what the governor wants and leadership and determination is what she’ll get.

[Wouldn’t a working container port at Grays Harbor be a God-send at a time like this, though?]