Logs give boost to port business

OLYMPIA - The Port of Olympia's marine terminal had a banner year last year, with ship visits rising more than 600 percent compared with 2008, preliminary year-end data show.

Other business units at the port, such as its real-estate division and the marina, also showed improvement last year, but none stood out like the marine terminal.

“We have a ways for us to go, but we’re headed in the right direction and we’re going to keep working hard to achieve continuous improvement here,” port executive director Ed Galligan said Wednesday.

In 2008, four vessels docked at the port, but that shot up to 29 in 2009 largely because of Weyerhaeuser’s log-export operation, Marine Terminal director Jim Amador said.

Seventeen ships and 12 barges docked at the port last year, he said.

Most of those ships were tied to Weyerhaeuser’s operations, although two ships delivered windmill blades to the port for wind-generated electricity plants, and the port received a shipment of garnet from India, a sand-like substance used in sandblasting applications.

Preliminary data show the terminal generated $2.64 million in operating revenue, up from $1.62 million in 2008, Amador said. Dockworker hours doubled in the same period, increasing to 29,806 hours from 14,248 hours, he said.

Here’s how the port performed at its other business units in 2009:

Swantown Marina and boatworks: Harbor director Bruce Marshall said the number of boats hauled out of the water for repairs rose 3 percent to 749 in 2009 from 726 in 2008. That’s not as many haul-outs as in 2007, but after a slower 2008, he said he is pleased with the results.

“We think the trend is going to continue, but it won’t be an instant rebound from 2007,” Marshall said.

As for the marina, permanent moorage occupancy was down 1 percent in 2009 from 2008, which is not bad considering that recreational boating has been under siege in the slower economy, he said.

“Recreational boating is all about disposable income,” Marshall said.

Real estate: Senior manager of property development Heber Kennedy, who plans to retire from the port this month, said revenue was up over last year at the port’s real-estate holdings, although he still is waiting for year-end numbers for 2009. The year, though, had its challenges, largely because of tighter financing standards for commercial real estate deals, Kennedy said.

Real-estate highlights of the year include the steps taken to develop NorthPoint on the port peninsula and the East Bay District along Marine Drive, he said.

Although infrastructure construction work is proceeding on East Bay, the port’s director of engineering, Rick Anderson, said Wednesday that the project is behind schedule. Construction began June 2 and originally had a substantial completion date of Nov. 9, but now that date is unknown, he said. Anderson said the port is working hard to get the contractor, Stan Palmer Construction of Port Orchard, back on track.

“It’s clearly going to be delayed a while,” he said.

Olympia Regional Airport: Airport director Rudy Rudolph could not be reached Wednesday, but executive director Galligan told the port commission last month that airport operating volumes were down 8 percent in 2009, according to minutes from the commission meeting.

Not all the news for the port was positive in 2009.

The port continues to face challenges in the form of lawsuits and concerns about its environmental stewardship.

In November, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled that the Port of Olympia must pay about $56,000 in legal fees and costs to activists who sued for records related to a contractual agreement to bring Weyerhaeuser’s log-export business to Olympia. In December, the port was sued in U.S. District Court by the nonprofit Olympians for Public Accountability, saying that the port’s stormwater management violates the Clean Water Act and leads to pollution of lower Budd Inlet.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403