The Newport Port Commission and their new port General Manager Paula Miranda tackled a number of high profile issues during the port’s monthly port commission meeting this week.
Topping the agenda was taking on the port’s financial situation – the need for higher revenues in order to help the port grow in stature and market share and to better accommodate the fishing fleet, private recreation boating facilities and R/V visitors – not to mention keeping the NOAA operations and Hatfield Marine Science Center happy as well.
First off, the port commission is expected to raise moorage (dock) rates just about across the board. The commission is staring at some big maintenance challenges – especially at Port Docks 5 and 7. Both commercial fishing and some recreational craft have grown weary of the rapidly aging facilities which the port can’t afford to upgrade on its own. Commissioners have already applied for outside help in the form of state and other grants. Scheduled higher port dockage fees for just about everyone will no doubt help provide local matching funds as part of the port’s applications for monies to upgrade docks, piers and other facilities.
The port commission also agreed to re-connect with Teevin Brothers on Teevin’s past expressed interest in adding large cargo cranes to the recently constructed Newport International Terminal. Of course the devil is in the details since after many commercial fishing boat owners up-graded to much larger fishing vessels, those vessel owners are today viewing the International Terminal as a center for fishing operations rather than international trade as was envisioned when it was built over ten years ago. The port has been unable to attract large international shippers so the fishing community moved in to fill the void. New Port Manager Paula Miranda says she realizes that the relatively small port of Newport only has so much room and that the long wait for port upgrades is prompting new visions and new strategies to find funding for those facilities – while also sharing them with the fishing industry. There’s lots of talk about trying to coordinate the fishing fleet’s needs, while at the same time fulfilling the requirements of large cargo ships that are expected to come and go with some regularity including year-round transporting of logs, finished lumber and Willamette Valley agriculture products.
The port commission also said the port must address the growing problem of inadequate parking for a growing charter fishing industry. Port Manager Paula Miranda said she and her staff will work closely with charter fishing boat captains to let them know that longer-term parking on port property isn’t free.
The conversation then turned toward the annual Seafood and Wine event that occurs during the Spring. Some commissioners lamented that the port doesn’t enjoy a suitable share of the event’s revenues or for the wear and tear on port parking and set-up areas for the festival. It was mentioned that the Newport Chamber of Commerce, that runs Seafood and Wine, could probably save considerable money by not renting the tent facilities for $150,000 a year (estimated) – just buy the tents. It would free up some revenue for the port having to pave and stripe and keep the area in good enough shape to accommodate the event.
And finally, the port commission decided to contact the MOC-P NOAA facility at South Beach to complain that the original contract between the Port of Newport and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stipulated that the NOAA docks, that the port invested in, are strictly to be used by NOAA ships and no others. Yet port officials contend that NOAA allows other ships to tie up at South Beach and use dock space, sewer, water, and power. The commission voted to arrange a meeting with top NOAA officials to re-state what the commission and NOAA contractually agreed to over 10 years ago – that only NOAA ships are to dock there. The port implied that heavy wear and tear on docks on the Oregon Coast causes all docks to age pre-maturely. Obviously “To-Be-Continued.”