Kristine Zortman, executive director, Port of Redwood City says that the Port needs to increase dredging and develop new markets to expand on its construction materials and scrap metals business.
In an interview with AJOT, Zortman said, “We have to recognize that our success attracting building material and scrap metal business may not last forever. The Port needs to embark on a diversification strategy to generate new markets and new sources of revenue.”
The Port announced that it broke its record of two million metric tons of cargo for the third quarter ending March 31st, 2019. The result was revenues of $7.1 million, an increase of nearly $900,000 over the previous year.
For the third quarter of 2019, vessel calls increased from 47 to 61 ships.
Lorianna Kastrop, Port Commission Chair said “We anticipate strong results to continue through the rest of the fiscal year.”
Zortman said that the port’s prime exporter of recycled metals, Sims Metal, had “begun diversifying away from China three years ago and has increased its exports to countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam. So, we expect continued strong growth in this sector as well.”
Sims recycles more than 300,000 tons of vehicles per year and exports shredded scrap metal to Asia.
A major importer at the Port of Redwood City is Cemex Aggregates, which recycles concrete and asphalt and imports construction aggregates.
The Port is sometimes called, “the Port of Silicon Valley,” because its location in the South San Francisco Bay gives it proximity for trucking imported building materials from the Port to new Silicon Valley construction sites.
Increased Maintenance Dredging Will Attract More Ships
In order to expand its marine business, the Port needs to have annual maintenance dredging of the ship channel performed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Zortman said. Right now, the ship channel is dredged every two years. This is not sufficient to provide a reliable depth for ships to transit the Port’s terminals.
The Port spent $1.6 million dredging the seabed next to its berths that included lengthening and widening. This provides vessels with a channel depth of 30 feet at mean lower low water and accommodates a ship’s beam (width) of 110 feet. These dimensions will accommodate Panamax sized bulk carriers with a capacity to transport nearly 60,000 tons of materials.
These bulk carriers unload some of their cargo of construction materials onto barges after they arrive in the San Francisco Bay. Once the ships are lighter and displace less draft, they can discharge the rest of their cargo at Redwood City’s docks.
The Port provides three deep water berths for ships.
The annual maintenance dredging would allow for ships with deeper draft and more tonnage to load and unload at the Port.
Giorgio Garilli, assistant manager of operations, Port of Redwood City, says that annual maintenance dredging by USACE will help attract business to the Port by lowering operating costs for ocean carriers and increasing the possibility of more sailings.
Zortman is hoping for a collaboration with other Bay Area ports as well as organizations supporting increased wetlands augmentation. These organizations want clean dredge materials for expansion of wetlands in the San Francisco Bay. She hopes that supporting new dredge deposit sites at nearby locations inside the Bay will lower costs for USACE dredging. Right now, she says, USACE transports dredge materials out into the Pacific Ocean for dumping. Encouraging more deposits inside the Bay will increase the amount of money available for new dredging.
Possible Ferry Terminal
On the north-eastern end of the Port’s property is an underutilized nine acres that could be used for a ferry terminal. Zortman is looking for partners to develop the ferry terminal and believes there is potential based on car and bus commuters switching to ferries to come to work from San Francisco to Silicon Valley.
Commute times across Silicon Valley have increased by 17% over the past decade, adding an average of 43 minutes weekly per commuter, according to the 2018 Silicon Valley Index by Joint Venture Silicon Valley.
In some cases, workers are driving 90 minutes or more from outlying areas such as the San Joaquin Valley to reach their jobs in Silicon Valley.
So, the ferry service could relieve freeway congestion and long commuter drives.
A new ridership survey may provide sufficient data to support the concept, Zortman says
Google has a campus located near the Port and could account for some of the new ferry ridership.
Today, she notes, Google transports employees to work from San Francisco to Silicon Valley by bus.
The buses, using diesel fuel, add to pollution and traffic congestion along the 101-freeway corridor.
A fast ferry travelling at 35 knots should be able to travel between San Francisco and Redwood City in around 45-50 minutes, although additional time needs to be factored for leaving and arriving at the ferry terminals. However, the trip runs a lower risk of being slowed by traffic jams and accidents than commuting by car or bus on the 101-freeway.
In June, the estimated car commute on a Monday morning travelling on the 101-freeway between San Francisco and Redwood City was 54 minutes, according to Google.
The ferry could also provide a zero-emission alternative. A new hydrogen fuel cell ferry is being built at Bay Ship in nearby Alameda, California and could provide a model for zero emission water transport service.
Zortman says that if sufficient ridership supported a viable ferry service, then a proposed terminal at the Port of Redwood City could be a waterborne transportation link between Silicon Valley, San Francisco and the Port of Oakland.
Sea Level Rise and Wharf Strengthening
The Port has been addressing the sea level rise threat: “We spent $17 million raising Wharfs 1 and 2 by over 3 feet and re-enforcing them to withstand an earthquake of an 8.9 magnitude.”
The Port’s investment has won support from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) “when FEMA discovered that we raised and strengthened the wharf, they designated the Port as the emergency staging area for an earthquake and natural disaster for first responders serving the South (San Francisco) Bay.” This has allowed the Port to seek federal grants to support the wharfs as an emergency services staging area. This has created good will and added revenues.