Missed ship costs port $75,000

OLYMPIA - The Port of Olympia lost an estimated $75,000 last month when a Russian shipper decided to deliver 16,000 tons of aluminum to the Port of Everett instead.

Such shipments typically have come to Olympia for the past three years.

The status of Olympia's aluminum business heading into 2007 was unclear on Monday.

What is clear is that Everett port officials saw the delivery as an opportunity to gain more business, possibly at Olympia's expense, at the growing Snohomish County port.

"It allows us to show off and see if that's something we might want to do," said Lisa Mandt, a spokeswoman for the Port of Everett. "It's a huge accomplishment for us."

Five vessels this year

Five aluminum-bearing vessels visited Olympia this year. There were six last year and five the year before.

A Russian aluminum manufacturer diverted the shipment to Everett to make a faster return trip to the Russian Far East, said Mike Evans, sales and marketing director for Far Eastern Shipping Company.

Ships that make aluminum deliveries in Olympia often return to Russia carrying mining equipment loaded in Everett, Evans said.

The shipper decided to deliver the aluminum in Everett in hopes of making a faster return trip to avoid the onset of winter weather in Russia, Evans said.

"The customer tells us where to take the ship," Evans said.

'Certainly a risk'

Olympia port officials acknowledged that the decision to divert a shipment to Everett poses some threat to Olympia.

"There is certainly a risk that they (Everett port crews) outperform Olympia," said Kari Qvigstad, the port's marketing and business development director. "We're disappointed that we lost the revenue."

The port's marine terminal generated $2.7 million in gross revenue last year, up from $2.28 million the year before. It could not immediately be determined how much of that came from aluminum shipments.

Qvigstad said port officials are in negotiations to continue receiving aluminum.

Other port cargoes include timber and garnet, military shipments and assorted other noncontainerized cargo. For example, the port accepted a shipment of wind turbine blades earlier this year.

"Every customer we have is extremely important to us," said Ed Galligan, port executive director. He said talks with the aluminum shipping line were planned for next month in hopes of continuing aluminum deliveries in Olympia.

Mandt played down the significance of the one Olympia-bound shipment that went to Everett.

"It was only a trial run," she said.

"Ports lose business to and from each other all the time," she said.

Jim Szymanski is business editor of The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-357-0748 or jszymanski@theolympian.com