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Tuesday, Dec 5, 2023

Record Week for Cargo Tonnage Bodes Well

“The record amount of cargo tonnage that moved through local docks last week gives Martin Collins something to boast about.

But this is just the beginning, the Port of San Diego’s senior director of maritime services said.

Aggressive marketing, coupled with a first-time Maritime Master Plan, are expected to bring a lot more longshore work to the San Diego waterfront, giving way to more scenes like the one last week.

In two days a total of nine cargo ships from around the globe transferred tonnage at Downtown’s Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal and the National City Marine Terminal.

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Local dockworkers unloaded avocadoes from Chile, steel and newsprint from South Korea, cut paper from Indonesia, cement from China, and automobiles from Japan. Soda ash was exported to Australia.

Monday marked a milestone for the port with a one-day record of 65,800 metric tons of cargo.

Collins said the large number could mean even more business for the port.

“The shippers and the shipping lines stand up take notice, and say, ‘Hey, we ought to look at San Diego.”

Longshore Jobs

The increased tonnage last week created about 160 longshoreman jobs each day and 95 to 100 jobs a night Saturday through Tuesday, said Timmy Chavez, secretary/treasurer of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 29.

The local ILWU, which has about 75 permanent workers who make about $28 an hour, hired additional “on-call” workers to help with the extra work.

“People have been calling me asking, ‘How does it look tonight?’ I say, ‘Don’t worry, there’s a lot of work tonight, come on in.’ They say, ‘How is tomorrow?’ I say, ‘Don’t worry, come in,'” said Chavez, a local dockworker for 35 years.

“We look forward to the continuation of cargo,” he said. “It’s good to see the work. It keeps us all busy.”

Collins said while having nine ships in at once isn’t common here, it also wasn’t a coincidence.

“Each of these commodities, people have worked very hard to bring in the door,” he said. “It didn’t just fall out of the tree. It’s part of the marketing plan over the last two years.”

Trade Mission Planned

That marketing plan includes trade missions to seek out new cargo business. Next month, Collins will go to Asia to meet with existing customers and to woo potential ones.

He also plans to talk with a couple container lines in Singapore and Hong Kong. The move comes as the port maps out a plan to create a steady flow of container cargo to the local docks.

As part of the port’s Maritime Master Plan, approved earlier this month, $60.3 million will be spent on capital improvements over the next 10 years, including infrastructure improvements for a container cargo operation, dredging and demolition of buildings along the waterfront.

The port hasn’t had any container cargo business in over a year, since the Chicken of the Sea tuna cannery moved its container cargo operations to the Port of Long Beach more than a year ago. Chicken of the Sea only accounted for 7,500 containers a year.

The Port of San Diego can handle up to 250,000 containers a year, Collins said. Realistically, the port’s initial goal is to reach 150,000 containers a year in the next 10 years.

He said the port is seeking a private operator of the planned container cargo operation at the Tenth Avenue terminal off Harbor Drive.

Collins projects revenues of $5.1 million by 2005 for the port’s container cargo business. That amount is expected to jump to $8.8 million in 2010 and $12 million by 2020.

Meanwhile, the port’s total cargo revenues for fiscal 1999 tallied $10.9 million. Total maritime services revenues, which includes cruise ship operations, totaled $11.2 million. That’s up from $8.8 million and 1998.

‘It didn’t just fall out of the tree. It’s part of the marketing plan over the last two years.’

Martin Collins

Port of San Diego”


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