Port of Longview posts another record year for revenue
By Erik Olson, April 23, 2013, Longview Daily News
Fueled by grain exports, the Port of Longview tripled its net operating income in 2012, posting its fifth consecutive record revenue year and capping a remarkable rebound from near insolvency, port officials said Tuesday.
The port collected $33.8 million last year, a 20 percent jump from the $28 million in 2011. The money comes from docking fees and rent from tenants. The income pays the wages for port employees, dock workers and other labor.
The port made about $8 million last year of net operating income (akin to profit in the private sector), tripling income from a net of $2.66 million in 2011.
“Our finances are very, very solid now. … This money is really going to help the port out,” Commission President Lou Johnson said following a Tuesday business meeting at the port.
The port received its biggest boost from the EGT grain terminal, which started operating in the spring of 2012. Workers at EGT exported 4.68 million tons of wheat, soy beans and corn last year, nearly two-thirds of all the cargo that was handled. EGT officials have said they expect to export about 8 million tons of grain annually once it operates for a full year, which would create more revenue for the port.
Exports of calcined coke, a byproduct of oil refining, fell 28 percent to 543,048 tons in 2012, largely because of down time at the Cherry Point, Wash., refinery where the product is made. Calcined coke is one of the port’s biggest cash cows per ton, but port officials they can rely less on money from those shipments because of the boost in grain exports.
Overall, the port imported and exported 6.27 million tons of cargo in 2012, which port officials believe is the most on record.
Johnson said the port plans to invest its net income to improve port property and equipment to attract new business. Port officials are looking to tear down a shuttered grain elevator at Berth 4 and extend roads, rail and other services to develop its 275-acre Barlow Point. Port commissioners are also considering buying a second mobile harbor crane to handle cargo, he said.
“It just gives us a lot of options. We don’t have to worry year to year,” Johnson said.
That wasn’t always the case. In the mid-2000s, Port of Longview officials worried that they wouldn’t even make payroll because of the collapse of log exports and other maritime industry slowdowns, but the port has since successfully diversified its business.
The port collected a then-record $23.8 million in 2008, fueled largely by a surge of wind-energy equipment imported by public utilities to meet new state renewable energy standards. The wind energy bubble deflated within a few years but was replaced by surging log exports to supply China’s growing construction industry. Last year, log exports slowed by 40 percent, to 530,654 million board feet, but revenue from EGT filled the gap.
“We should all be very happy with this,” Laurie Nelson-Cooley, the port’s business development manager, told port commissioners.