Port of Newport Releases Platform Regarding International Terminal Access, Fishing Industry Responds


Information from Heather Mann Director of Midwater Trawlers Association

Port of Newport’s Commercial Fishing Industry Platform Regarding International Terminal Access. The Port of Newport is home to a diversified commercial fishing industry. Well over 100 commercial fishing vessels are home-ported in Newport and many more transient vessels visit and utilize the Port’s facilities. Newport-based vessels participate in many fisheries and Newport is also home to many of Oregon’s Distant Water Fleet. Many Lincoln County citizens are directly employed as vessel crew or in seafood processing plants. Hundreds more are employed by the dozens of support businesses that service the commercial fishing industry. Newport’s successful tourism economy is also based, in part, on the existence of an authentic working waterfront. In 2015 over 67.8 million pounds of seafood worth over $33.4 million in ex-vessel revenue was landed in Newport. These numbers are conservative and do not include the revenue from landings by Newport vessels in other west coast ports or the distant water fisheries. Over the last decade commercial fisheries have been steadily increasing and the opportunities for fishing continue to expand. Newport generally ranks in the top 20 national fishing ports annually based on landings and value.

The International Terminal (IT) is a critical component to Newport’s commercial fishing success. The IT can accommodate large fishing vessels that do not fit at other port facilities. It is not unusual to see 12-15 large trawl vessels moored at the IT between November 1 and January 10th or between April 1 and May 15th. Crab and shrimp boats and trawlers also use the IT heavily to stage and switch gear throughout the year. In addition to the local boats, Bering Sea crabbers and other large transient vessels stage at the IT before moving up-river for boat work at one of the two Toledo shipyards. In addition to significant fishing gear storage, the IT houses important support businesses including a net shop and fishmeal plant. The revenue that the Port generates from the commercial industry at the IT has grown significantly over the last four years. In fiscal year 2016-17 the Port received over $467,000 for services and moorage at the IT from 52 unique vessels. The revenue generated at the IT has grown by about 50% from $229,939 in 2013-14. The trend is for even greater commercial fishery revenue increases to the IT in future years.

With the importance of the commercial fishing industry to the Port of Newport in mind, and specifically the importance of the IT to the commercial fleet and dependent economy of Lincoln County, all future use plans for the IT whether for shipping or any other activity, must consider and accommodate the minimum needs of the fishing fleet. If necessary, plans for the construction of new docks to allow for any new activity should be included while plans should preserve the access for the existing industry.

At a minimum, there should be:

  •   Space for 12 large catcher vessels to moor (no more than 2 deep) at the IT from November 1st through January 10th and April 1 through May 15th at the same time there is direct dock access always for at least two vessels to be actively loading and unloading.
  •   At all other times of the year there should be room available to moor at least six catcher vessels (no more than 2 deep) while there is direct dock access always for at least one vessel to be actively loading and unloading.
  •   Twelve months out of the year there should be access to a gear hoist for use by local crab, shrimp and trawl vessels to load and unload gear, as well as a clear path between the storage area and the dock
  •   Twelve months out of the year there should be ample space to lay down and work on trawl nets
  •   Twelve months out of the year there should be a clear route for trucks to access the fishmeal plant. Any consideration given to the development of shipping or other activities from the IT should recognize both current and future use needs of the commercial fishing industry who have been the primary users of the facility for the last thirty years. Also, the financial impacts to the industry and community must be analyzed.

 

Industry Letter to Port of Newport

 

July 25, 2017

Dear President and Commissioners

Please accept these comments on behalf of the commercial fishing industry that utilizes the facilities in the Port of Newport. Newport is home to a successful and diversified commercial fishing industry that contributes tens of millions of dollars annually into the economy of Lincoln County. Hundreds of residents are employed directly in the commercial fishing industry as boat owners, crew and processing plant workers. Hundreds more are employed by the dozens of support businesses that exist to service the industry. The commercial fishing industry contributes greatly to the success of the Port of Newport and it is in the best interest of the commercial industry to see the Port thrive.

Based on all the information that is publicly available we have strong concerns about the Port of Newport moving forward with the agreements it is considering with Teeven Brothers and Silvan Forestry. Our concerns are two-fold. First, the current agreements do not appear to be beneficial to the Port and could jeopardize the Port’s financial future which will harm the fishing industry and the larger community. Second, the Port has not recognized the importance of the International Terminal to the commercial fishing industry (the primary users of the facility for the last thirty years) and has not authentically negotiated on our behalf with the logging and shipping companies to secure priority access during our high use times.

On July 17th, General Manager Kevin Greenwood made a telling statement on the Boss radio show. After saying he plans to bring the same agreements in front of the Commission from last month, he then said, “We have heard anywhere from 2-4 months of exclusivity from the fishing community and I think if you look at four months that pretty much makes shipping infeasible as a real viable business opportunity here in Newport.”

There are certain times of the year when the IT is fully subscribed with vessels. For many of these vessels there is nowhere else in the Port that can accommodate them. For those vessels that could potentially be moored at Port Dock 5, there is growing concern from the vessels that are already moored there about increased competition for limited space.

We keep hearing that having exclusive use for the fishing industry does not work with the shipping company’s business plans. Being displaced from the IT does not work with our business plans or the business plans of all the companies that provide services to the industry and depend on our business during these peak use times. We are an existing, successful and growing industry. We have been the primary users of the International Terminal for the last thirty years. It is a sad day when the Port of Newport chooses to neglect its current customers and local investments in favor of out of town interests. Especially when the revenue being generated at the International Terminal by the commercial industry has more than doubled in the last four years. The trend is continued growth!

At the same time, even under the best-case scenario it will be close to a decade before the Port realizes any significant profit from the shipping operations being currently considered. Jeopardizing an existing industry that means so much to the community to take on $4.5 million in additional debt that does not result in positive profits to the Port for many years seems nonsensical at best and a clear abdication of the Port Commission’s fiduciary responsibility.

Based on all that has been made publicly available over the last few months and the General Manager’s statements from July 17th, we urge the Commission to terminate any further consideration of the current proposals. Further, we encourage the Commission to consider and adopt the “Commercial Fishing Industry Platform Regarding International Terminal Access” which is included with this letter and broadly supported by the industry.

The fishing industry continues to support the reintroduction of shipping if the companies the Port is partnering with propose economically viable plans that protect the fishing industry’s access to the International Terminal and that do not jeopardize the financial status of the Port of Newport. The current proposals from Teeven Brothers and Silvan Forestry do neither.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Fishermen / Fishing Businesses