Rolf Boone, June 19, 2015, The Olympian
Revenue at the Port of Olympia’s marine terminal has fallen 52 percent through April of this year, the result of changes to the global economy.
The port’s finance director, Jeff Smith, elaborated on the pace of business at the marine terminal after comments on the topic during the port commission’s work session Thursday.
Through April of this year, the port had budgeted projected revenue of $2.8 million for the marine terminal, but the actual revenue was only $1.3 million, Smith said.
The marine terminal typically is the biggest revenue generator for the port among its four business units, which include the Olympia Regional Airport and Swantown Marina.
Smith said the dip in oil prices has slowed the need for importing ceramic proppants, or fracking sand, through the port. And the stronger U.S. dollar has made U.S. exports more expensive, including raw logs exported through the port to Asia.
Executive Director Ed Galligan said during the work session that log exports are 25 to 30 percent more expensive because of the stronger dollar.
Through April, only one ship called on the port to deliver ceramic proppants, Smith said. Log ship traffic has slowed, too, but hasn’t fallen as sharply as the traffic for proppants, he said.
Jervis Bay, the next log ship due at the port, is expected Friday.
The proppants are delivered by rail to the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota.
Slower ship traffic also means that marine terminal-related expenses, such as the cost of labor, has fallen through April of this year to $1.1 million. The port had budgeted $1.7 million for the same period.
“Longshoreman aren’t working as much, and that’s very difficult,” Smith said.
Also on Thursday, the port commission, including its new member Michelle Morris, discussed suggestions for improving the public comment process at port meetings after a resident raised concerns about decorum and civility.
A part of their discussion focused on whether to allow members of the public to show up dressed in costume. At a port meeting on April 28, 2014, a man showed up dressed as the Grim Reaper and was called to the public comment podium as “Mr. Reaper.”
The man apparently dressed as the reaper to call attention to the port’s fracking sand imports and the effect fossil fuels have on the globe.
The port’s legal counsel, Heather Burgess, said somebody wearing a costume could use it to conceal a weapon.
“I would ask the commission to consider that,” said Galligan.
“In today’s society, there’s not a month that goes by that we don’t hear about some disaster that seems inexplicable,” he said.