Port of Oakland moves ahead on dredging
October 20, 2011 - LM Editorial
The Port of Oakland reached a major funding milestone of nearly $350 million for harbor deepening and maintenance, this week, thereby enhancing its position as a leading U.S. ocean cargo export gateway.
“Deeper vessel channels mean that the port can remain globally competitive, support job retention and growth, and drive positive economic impact for the region, state and nation,” noted Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who helped drive the initiative.
Of the nearly $350 million, Lee has ensured that the port received $242 million for harbor deepening and $103 million for maintenance dredging. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already begun its annual maintenance dredging that keeps Oakland’s harbor navigable and at a depth of minus 50 feet.
Lee also co-sponsored H.R. 104, which would ensure that Harbor Maintenance Tax collection is spent every year for dredging. Annually, port customers pay taxes into the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund with assurances that the money will be available to pay for navigational maintenance and harbor improvements. Industry observers, note, however, that the revenues deposited in the fund are not always being fully spent.
The Port of Oakland intends to reverse that trend by investing these funds rather than adding to a surplus of over $5 billion.
Port spokesmen noted that 2,000 container ships call Oakland each year, and many leave fully-loaded with California exports.
Indeed, Oakland is the only major container port on the U.S. West Coast that exports more than it imports, with the volume of its export business at 55 percent and imports at 45 percent.
Jock O’Connell, Beacon Economics’ International Trade Adviser, told LM that he expects continued gains in California’s export trade through the remainder of the year, as the U.S. and world economies overcome the negative shocks that hit earlier in the year.
Despite occasional dockside labor disruptions, Oakland has been, and continues to be a premier U.S. export seaport for agricultural goods. Its terminals are relatively new, and uncrowded. The port is also close to California’s Central Valley and the wine country. Furthermore, the port is the only U.S. West Coast gateway that has all top 20 ocean carriers with regular service.
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