Port of Astoria moves toward charging a fee on passing ships

December 21, 2018
In this Dec. 8, 2018 photo, a cargo ship passes under the Astoria Bridge near Astoria, Ore. The cash-strapped Port of Astoria is considering charging fees to passing ships to raise money despite objections from the shipping industry. (Edward Stratton/Daily Astorian via AP)

ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) — The cash-strapped Port of Astoria is considering charging fees to passing ships to raise money to maintain its aging infrastructure despite objections from the shipping industry.

The fees would help pay for maintenance at Pier 1, which is the only structure at the mouth of the Columbia River large enough for ships can tie up in case of emergency, The Daily Astorian reported this week.

Pier 1 is often host to large ships that have been ordered to get repairs by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Port staff last month opened the possibility of charging landing fees on seafood processors and fees for passing ships, contracting Haglund to explore the possibilities. Haglund reported back that the Port has broad authority to charge fees in its jurisdiction, which stretches to the Washington state side of the Columbia River.

The shipping industry has mobilized against the plan, however, and says the port can’t impose a tax and is citing a U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down a property tax imposed on oil tankers by Valdez, Alaska.

The ruling found that such a tax wasn’t OK because the Constitution bars states from enacting tonnage fees without an act of Congress, said Kate Mickelson, executive director of the Columbia River Steamship Operators’ Association, which represents oceangoing vessels.

The Port has talked about limiting fees to passing vessels 250 feet or longer, capturing oceangoing ships and leaving out fishing, sailing and other smaller boats.

Vessels transiting the Columbia receive invoices for services from the Merchants Exchange in Portland, said Jim Knight, the Port’s executive director.

“They would send the bills to the ships’ agents, and once a month the Port would receive a statement of how many vessels were charged and how much money was collected,” he said.

Port staff will analyze how much dredging and maintenance on and around Pier 1 costs before coming up with a proposed fee.


Information from: The Daily Astorian, http://www.dailyastorian.com

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