July 02, 2020

Ice storm does little to slow port construction at Estes Head

EASTPORT — While ice, snow and sleet forced some people in Washington County to stay inside, it did not have much impact on construction of the new $15 million port at Estes Head. The port, which remains on schedule and within budget, is expected to be ready for its first ship in July.

Power outages dominated the news in most of the state, but at the port it was business as usual. With the wind chill Tuesday, the effective temperature was around zero, but the huge barge-supported crane was moving large pilings, and construction workers were hard at work.

“The ice storm didn’t have much of an impact. They shut down for a few days when the worst weather hit us, but they are still ahead of schedule,” Port Director Jonathan Daniels said.

During a recent tour of the facility, crews were working on the last section of what will be a 634-foot pier. “They only have about 40 feet left and two more sets of piles to install before all piles on the trestle and pier are in place,” Daniels said.

Construction of the pier began last year, and once it is completed the pier will be able to accommodate ships 900 feet long at the outside berth, and vessels up to 550 feet long at the inside berth.

The new pier is about three miles southwest of the downtown. It is expected to increase cargo shipments in and out of the port.

Now, ships are loaded at the city’s downtown pier, which last year handled nearly 200,000 tons of cargo. That activity has created traffic problems in the downtown as large tractor-trailers line up to unload cargo. A new port will alleviate those problems, officials say.

Once the new pier is completed, port officials plan to begin construction on shore facilities that will include more warehouses and an administration building. The new buildings will allow the port to diversify products shipped from the port. The port’s major shipper is Georgia-Pacific Corp. in Woodland, which ships pulp and rolled paper to foreign markets.

“The initial phase calls for construction of two 20,000-square-foot warehouses,” Daniels said as he scanned the shoreline. “We also are continuing efforts to secure climate-control warehouses, which will allow us to engage in marketing of products that have been purely speculative in the past, including blueberries, broccoli, potatoes or other products.”

Daniels and his staff have been aggressively marketing the port. He said that last year he met with a variety of potential shippers, including a delegation from Iceland that was in Eastport a few weeks ago to evaluate the port’s ability to move products from Eastport to Husavik, Iceland.

Although the port is looking at other cargos, Daniels said officials would not ignore its bread-and-butter cargo, forest products.

He said that in 1997 tonnage shipped from the port had held. “We were within about 1,000 tons of 1996’s tonnage total. … Where we saw a decline in G-P’s roll-paper shipments, we saw an increase in their elementally chlorine-free pulp shipments. Also, Georgia-Pacific began shipments out of Eastport to South America. We saw five ships and approximately 16,000 tons of cargo going into Argentina and Venezuela.”

Port officials believe that during 1998, G-P shipments will remain consistent with past years.

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