NORTH BEND — The first load of chips left Southport Forest Products’ new intermodal barge facility on Coos Bay’s North Spit this month. In the future, the facility will likely be used for other products, too.
“This barge operation increases Southport Forest Product’s abilities to handle multiple products, better control transportation costs and grow our customer base,” said Southport co-owner Jason Smith in a statement.
Southport Forest Products and the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay partnered to obtain ConnectOregon I funding for the intermodal marine freight project. The project cost totaled $646,000, including $506,000 from ConnectOregon and $140,000 in matching funds.
In 2004, Southport purchased a 32-acre site, including a heavy-lift barge slip, from the Port for development of a high-tech small log sawmill and access to freight rail service. With the state grant, Southport was able to redevelop the infrastructure for multi-purpose barge operations. The company also purchased an additional 33 acres in 2011 from the Port for development of its wood chipping and log handling operation.
The project is expected to increase employment in Southport’s local operations, and in maritime services and the longshore labor sectors.
“We appreciate the fact that the Port was able to partner with Southport to get these funds for the barge slip and create much-needed family wage jobs locally,” said Marvin Caldera, president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 12. “We’re also happy that the loading operation this month was very successful.”
Deep-draft shipping terminals and barge facilities are expected to export nearly 2 million tons of cargo through Coos Bay in 2013. In addition to wood chips, export commodities moving through Coos Bay include logs and mineral ore.
“This development represents an incremental increase in maritime infrastructure for the harbor, and it’s a step forward in the development of marine terminals along lower Coos Bay,” said port CEO David Koch.