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Published: Monday, 11/16/2009

Company outlines $37.5M port plan

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Except for earth-movers and trucks working on a far corner of the property, there was little evidence recently that the former Gulf Oil refinery site on Front Street soon might become a busy part of the Port of Toledo complex.

But Jason Lowrey, marketing director for Midwest Terminals of Toledo International, told a tour group of Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority directors, University of Toledo representatives, and others interested in Toledo's port development that federal stimulus grants have ensured that within two years, the property will have grain-hand-

ling facilities.

Those are to include a rail loop suitable for unit-train unloading and a single dock berth suitable for ships up to 1,000 feet long, plus paved lay-down space for other cargoes. An asphalt terminal also may be built, he said.

At Facility No. 1 at the Maumee River's mouth - commonly known as the International Cargo Docks - American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds will pay to replace two aging cranes that are both slow and energy-inefficient.

The modern equipment will allow Mr. Lowrey's company to quote more competitive prices for handling a wider array of cargo, he said.

It is unclear how many jobs the improvements will create.

Fred Deichert, Midwest Terminals' chief financial officer, said the port authority's recent receipt of $37.5 million in state and federal grants is a direct result of his company having developed a detailed strategy for building port business and then discussing that strategy with the port authority, for which Midwest operates major Port of Toledo docks.

The improvements about to be made, he said, were all part of the long-range plan but, thanks to the grant funding, will be made 5 to 10 years sooner than otherwise would have occurred.

Having the plan in place made the grant money ripe for picking, he said. "The best thing we ever did was share our strategy with the port," he said. "The 'shovel-ready' strategy came to pass."

Said A. Bailey Stanbery, one of several port directors to take the tour, "Funding from the government is setting the stage for a bright future at Midwest Terminals and the port authority."

Midwest officials said they have spent $10 million improving buildings and adding equipment to the port authority-owned dock since their company took over operation from Toledo World Industries five years ago.

"It's unfortunate that everyone in the city of Toledo cannot see the facilities out here," fellow director Jerry Chabler said.

Through October, cargo tonnage through all Port of Toledo facilities, including privately owned docks such as the grain elevators and the iron-ore terminal, was down by nearly 18 percent compared with the same period of the 2008 shipping season. Iron ore was down by 1.8 million tons. Grain was up by 350,000 tons for a 55 percent gain after a down year in 2008. General and miscellaneous cargo, including metals and lumber, had the largest percentage decline.

Although the lumber and steel pipe that were often found on the Midwest dock last year are gone, at least for the time being, Mr. Lowrey showed the tour group big lots of stone, petroleum coke, coal, aluminum, and mill scale (a steel-making by-product) stored on the property that are generating revenue for his company and the port authority.

Mr. Lowrey estimated material on the dock at between 600,000 and 700,000 tons.

He said about one-third of the total was a huge pile of Wyoming coal that is being stored in Toledo until the utility that owns it needs the coal at its power plants.

Many power companies had contract orders for coal that they have had to store because reduced manufacturing has eroded demand for electricity, and Midwest gets monthly fees for this particular storage batch, the marketing director said.

Most of the aluminum now stored at the dock, meanwhile, is attributable to Toledo's designation last year by the London Metals Exchange as a delivery point, Mr. Lowrey said.

He said the United States has between 12 and 15 such delivery points, and those ports receive unloading, storage, and loading fees on every cargo.

New cranes that will be purchased with one of the grants, for $6.8 million, will be capable of transferring as much as 500 tons of bulk material an hour in or out of ships, Mr. Lowrey said.

Cranes now assigned to that work were built for World War II Liberty Ships, can transfer only about 125 tons an hour, and burn more fuel than the replacements, he said. The old cranes are to be removed.

The new cranes will run on treads, making them more maneuverable than the existing rail-based machines, and will be adaptable to handling containerized cargo, which the port authority hopes to attract to Toledo with the port improvements.

The Big Lucas and Little Lucas cranes will remain in service, but a $100,000 federal Environmental Protection Agency grant will pay for a new, fuel-efficient diesel engine on Little Lucas. No work is currently planned on Big Lucas.

Other improvements for the existing docks include restoring a rail loop through the facility so that trains can be loaded or unloaded without breaking them apart for positioning, and relocating a roadway near the docks to provide more storage space on the ground.

All of the improvements are scheduled to be finished by the end of next year.

Initial construction at Ironville Docks, meanwhile, is scheduled for completion by early 2011 and is to include paving, rail construction, dock-face renovations, dredging, building the grain-handling facilities, and security enhancements.

If vessel traffic demands it, Mr. Lowrey noted, additional berths can be created upriver of the single berth planned for Ironville's opening.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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