Trawlers warm to shipping deal


NEWPORT — An icy impasse between log shippers and fishermen that clouded the future of the Port of Newport and its new $20 million International Terminal showed signs of a thaw last week.

At a meeting of the port’s commercial fishing users on Dec. 20, industry leaders were cautiously optimistic about a new proposal by Teevin Bros. to ship logs from the 500-foot terminal that fishermen claim is indispensable to 28 large vessels of the deepwater fleet based here.

Aaron Bretz, port operations manager, said Teevin aims to ship raw logs aboard a 300-foot barge about once a month. Unlike the failed scheme to establish a large-scale operation that would have pushed trawlers aside, Teevin proposes to work around the large boats that stage twice a year at the International Terminal for crabbing and fishing off Oregon and Alaska.

The big difference this time, Bretz noted, was Teevin’s willingness to relinquish the wharf for at least 90 days when fishing vessels load their gear, such as crab pots and nets that are currently sprawled across the six-acre facility. The busiest windows are December-January and April-May.

“It looks feasible,” Bretz commented after a meeting of the Commercial Fishing Users Committee, an advisory group comprised of operators and chaired by Heather Mann of the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative. “Teevin is eager to work with the people who are already using the terminal.”

Bretz said port staff would coordinate the docking of vessels and storage of logs, allowing space for trawlers to use a key hoist and least 1,000 linear feet at the terminal for net repairs.

Fisherman David Jenks, a former port commissioner and member of the committee, called the pending arrangement with Teevin Bros. “a far better process” than the previous deal.

“The last time there were secret arrangements made behind closed doors and the fishing industry was put behind everyone else,” he stated. “We’re more comfortable with this atmosphere, because the fishermen are involved.”

The revelation of the new shipping plan came on the heels of a push by some state officials to take over the port, which used state loans to construct the terminal. The latest development would likely work in the port’s favor, however.

“It’s very encouraging for us,” said Teri Dressler, the port’s interim manager. “A number of the users led me to believe this would be a good opportunity for the port.”

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