Port hopes feds will fund new barges, allowing it to start container-barging service

The $5 million crane unloaded about six months ago at the Port of West Sacramento hasn’t been used for its primary intended purpose yet. But Port Manager Mike Luken is optimistic. (Photo courtesy of Amy Cameron, Port of West Sacramento)


By Steve Marschke

News-Ledger Editor

  The $5 million crane received by the Port of West Sacramento in January primarily to handle shipping container traffic hasn’t actually lifted any shipping containers yet. But port manager Mike Luken said he is confident that his facility will still get a chance to start shipping things in big metal container boxes, and the crane will get a chance to help move them around.

  The money for the crane was part of $8.7 million the port received in federal stimulus money through the “Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery” (TIGER) grand program, applied for in conjunction with the ports of Oakland and Stockton.

  “The mobile harbor crane was about $5 million,” said Luken. “A container facility building was about $2 million. We had a dock strengthening project for about one million. The remaining funding we contributed to two barges to start the project at Stockton.”

  The ports hope to begin a barge corridor program to handle cargo between Oakland and the Central Valley, to generate revenue for the ports and reduce truck traffic on regional freeways. To do that, “we’re aiming to match the cost of moving cargo by truck,” said Luken.

  The Port of West Sacramento does not yet have any container-handling barges.

  “We have been applying for a different TIGER grant to get two barges,” Luken said.

  In the meantime, the imported crane will get some use, he said.

  “Yes, it was purchased with the intent to help this particular service, but it was also intended to be used for other cargoes. We haven’t used the crane yet, we just got it, just got it assembled.”

   The port’s financial picture is currently depressed, partly because of the reduced demand to ship cement — a recently-added Port of West Sacramento mainstay. He estimated that the port is averaging about a half-million to a million dollars a year in losses, and is dipping into reserves through the economic downturn.

  “We’re still climbing out of the recession, still using reserves,” said Luken. “We’re starting a couple of new cargoes, including iron fines. We’re hopefully starting that in two to four weeks.”

  Iron fines, a waste product from steel production, will be exported to be reprocessed into steel, said Luken.

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