Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Ports and how they function plus some gossip!

There was some interest in weeks past about ports and how they operate in regard to larger cities as a whole. It seems that there is a certain degree of mystery surrounds such an old operational body as well as a little scandal mixed into the tales.
 Before the scandals unfold let’s review the hard facts. The Port of Portland was established on February 18th 1891 by the Oregon legislature with the intent to dredge the channel from Portland to the sea. In 1970 what we know of now as the Port of Portland was created by a merger of two groups The Port of Portland and the Portland Commission of Public Docks which was created in 1910.
The Port of Portland is interesting because it follows similar themes of Metro and is a regional government encompassing Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties. There are nine council positions for the Port and after being elected are appointed by the Governor and approved by the Oregon State Senate. Being that they serve three counties two council members must live in each of these three counties and the remaining three positions can live where they please. Being a council member is an unpaid position. After an appointment they serve a four year term and can be reinstated to the same post indefinably. The commissioner elect oversees daily operations.
Ports are a major player in the marketing of cargo and generate a significant amount of commerce. The Port of Portland is ranked as the 25th highest grossing Port in the US. This translated to it being the largest exporter of wheat from its marine terminals in the US and the third largest in the world. It is ranked the 5th highest Port for tonnage and the third largest auto importer in the country. Taking a look at the overall imports to Portland places our imports at 17 million tons of cargo every year. The Port of Portland handles 12 million tons of this cargo in their owned and operated facilities.
This is a much outdated estimates of income from a Summary of National Economic Impacts Generated by U.S. Deepwater Seaports from 2007.

 The truth of the matter is that Ports are highly profitable without the calculations of the land and air assets that they hold. Here is a direct connection to this report  96% of the Ports budget is maintained by their own transaction while the remaining 4% is collected through taxes. This 4% is not allowed to be applied to aviation though.
Now to the unconfirmed gossip. In the 1920’s and 1930’s the Port of Portland had accusations brought against them that they were operating under favoritism in the businesses that they worked with and in setting the dry dock rates. At the center of this controversy was James H. Polhemusas the head of the Port. As things stirred he was asked to step down from this position as well as some of his staff. Next Frank Akin, the private auditor appointed by the governor to look into this investigation, was found shot to death. The murder was never solved and in mid-December the port commissioners voted to reject the investigating committees brief thus exonerating Polhemusas.  Polhemusas stayed on with the port for the next three years before moving onto become the Vice President of Portland General Electric. Interesting times in Portland.     

MacColl, E. Kimbark. The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon, 1915-1950. Athens:   Georgian, 1979. Print.

Richmond, Martha. "Port of Portland Corporate Backgrounder." Port of Portland. Port of Portland, Apr.                2013. Web. <>.

"U.S. Seaports, Private-Sector Partners Plan to Invest $46 Billion By 2017 in Port Infrastructure - Press     Room - AAPA." U.S. Seaports, Private-Sector Partners Plan to Invest $46 Billion By 2017 in Port            Infrastructure - Press Room - AAPA. American Association of Port Authorities, 18 June 2012.                 Web. 18 May 2013. <>.

"U.S. Port Infrastructure Investment Survey 2012 – 2016 Completed May 31, 2012." U.S. Port     Infrastructure Investment Survey 2012 – 2016. American Association of Port Authorities, 31 May     2012. Web. <

"U.S. Public Port Facts." - Port Industry Information. American Association of Port Authorities, n.d. Web. 18 May 2013. <>.  

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