Rise of California niche ports

By: | Issue #647 | at 08:00 AM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  Ports  

Rise of California niche ports

San Francisco Maritime Business Rolling

The maritime business in San Francisco is beginning to roll. Part of the reason for the improvement is decisions made by the Port Authority over the last few years are beginning to fulfill their promise. At the top of the list is Pier 80.

Pier 80 is the port’s principal cargo terminal, a 60-acre facility with two warehouses and four deepwater berths. The facility had been in a downward spiral since the Great Recession of 2008, but the location has always held great promise. Last August things began to turn around as Pasha, a major auto handling group, took over the operations of Pier 80 after inking a 15-year lease with the Port Authority. Almost immediately the facility began filling with autos, both on the import and export side of the ledger.

While the ships are calling, it is a $10 million work in progress as the Pier shifts from being an emergency homeless shelter to a hub ro/ro port of call for Pasha’s vehicle customers in the Bay Area. Part of the attraction of the Pier 80 deal for Pasha was the underutilization when compared to other West Coast auto ports like Benicia and Richmond which are already operating near capacity. Ports like San Diego (see below) are expanding their ro/ro facilities in anticipation of an increase in auto imports over the next decade. Pasha believes that when Pier 80 is completely renovated, it will be able to handle 150,000 vehicles a year and around 100 ships.

But there is another intriguing aspect to the facility revitalization. One of the first big export items was Teslas – perhaps the most recognizable brand name in the electric powered automotive sector. The Port of San Francisco is the closest port to the auto manufacturing facility in Fremont and hopes to become the primary export gateway for their vehicles – an important balance to an industry heavy on imports.

An important, related project to Pier 80 renovation is rail track improvement. Back in 2011, the Port of San Francisco was awarded a $2.9 million grant from the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Rail Administration (FRA) to rebuild Quint Street Lead, the connector track from the main line to the Port. The upgraded track enables heavier locomotives and large unit trains to come directly to the Port instead of stopping off in South San Francisco to switch out to smaller trains.


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George Lauriat's avatar

American Journal of Transportation