Falling cargo activity drags down port income

Marissa Luck, June 10, 2015, The Daily News

Port of Longview’s net income plunged 34 percent in the first quarter compared to the same time last year, pulled down by falling log and grain exports.


Total net income for the first quarter was $1.65 million, down from $2.5 million last year. Port CEO Geir-Eilif Kalhagen said the decline seems dramatic because 2014 was a record year, and “not every year can be a record year.”


“Cargo markets are tough right now,” added Laurie Nelson-Cooley, business development manager. Overall, cargo activity was 23 percent lower than last year.


Log exports plummeted 45 percent — with just 110,000 tons exported in the first quarter compared to 202,000 last year — continuing a descent that started last year. Log exporters are suffering as demand for China shrinks due to the stronger U.S. dollar, Nelson-Cooley said.


“They do feel they’ve hit rock bottom, and there’s nowhere to go but up from here,” she said at Tuesday’s port commissioner meeting.


Exports of wheat, soybean and soya meal fell 30 percent, 57 percent and 32 percent, respectively. EGT told port staff that increased competition from Argentina and Brazil contributed to the downward trend. Bulk corn shipments surged 350 percent but didn’t compensate for the other losses.


Exports of calcined coke, used in the oil refining process, were down 19 percent because shipments were delayed into the second quarter. Nelson-Cooley said calcined coke shipments are on track to meet projections of the year.


“The amount of cargo that has flown across our docks has dropped down, so we’re putting the brakes on some extra capital spending,” Kalhagen said.


At Tuesday’s port meeting, commissioners decided to buy two used locomotives for $400,000 instead of a single hybrid locomotive, which could have increased maintenance costs.


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