Port of Eastport Looks Forward to Continued Growth

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Michael Dougherty

Late last month the Port of Eastport’s Executive Director Chris Gardner received approval to increase its budget for 2013, seeing a potential increase in business over 2012. The budget will be increased to $1.55 million for 2013, a small but important increase over the 2012 budget, pointing to continued growth.

The Port Authority is a revenue funded no obligation funded operation. “In short, the Port has to operate as a business and therefore when setting our budgets we have to forecast what we think the business volumes through the Port will be for the upcoming year,” Executive Director Chris Gardner said Monday. “Due to the nature of how we have to budget we try to be very conservative in our estimates to make sure we stay well within our means.”

This budget increase has been approved even though 2012 saw a 50% drop in the number of cattle passing through the Port. “The private sector shipping business is one that is very competitive and cost driven, therefore the Port recognizes that the way to increased business is through better cost effective service. Working with our port partner, Federal Marine Terminals, we are actively looking for ways in 2013 to continue to show the cow business that Eastport is its best fit,” says Gardner.

One area the Port had tremendous success in this past year was the cruise sector of operations. Half a dozen cruise ships chose Eastport as their port of call in 2012 and Gardner expects the Port has not seen the last of the cruise ships. “The unique thing about the cruise industry is that they plan a couple of years in advance for obvious itinerary reasons, i.e. plans made in 2012 may not come to fruition until 2014 or beyond,” says Gardner. “Therefore, although our audition in 2012 went well, due to the planning cycle we may not see its returns in 2013. We are however confident that the work of Chris Brown, Tess Ftorek and all the area volunteers was so well received that it will bring us return trips in 2014.”

The Port of Eastport is currently the deepest natural seaport in the continental United States with 65 feet of draft at its lowest running tides which ultimately makes it prime for future growth. 

“Currently there are major retrofits being accomplished in both the Suez and Panama Canals that will allow deeper draft vessels to find their way to the East Coast of the United States. The changes will be such that we will be seeing draft driven shipping situations that have never occurred in anyone’s lifetime,” says Gardner.

Being the deepest natural seaport has its advantages. What Eastport can provide ultimately cannot be matched and this coupled with its easternmost location and expansion potential will lead more shippers to consider this port in the future. 

“To be ready for this, the Port of Eastport is making landslide investments that will complement the needs of the future,” says Gardner. “We truly believe that the potential of Eastport is limited only by our ability to believe in ourselves.”