‘I just don’t need another fee’

Cindy Graham boxes up processed shortspine thornyheads, also known as idiot fish, recently at Bornstein Seafoods. The company opposes a fee the Port of Astoria proposes to implement.

The Port of Astoria meeting was as packed Tuesday, when Port Commissioners announced Jim Knight as the new executive director. But the first public hearing on new proposed seafood landing fees drew part of the crowd.

The commission opened the public forum Tuesday on modifying Tariff No. 11, regarding vessel moorage and seafood unloaded over its docks. Among additions to the tariff are a wharfage fee of $1.61 and a service and facilities fee of $2.32 (inbound) and $1.52 (outbound), all per 1,000 kilograms of seafood handled over Port docks.

Astoria, Coos Bay and Newport are the largest commercial seafood ports on the Oregon Coast. None of them levy such fees on commercial seafood processors. Neither does Ilwaco, Wash., which hosts Jessie’s Ilwaco Fish Co.

“This is not an application of tariffs issue,” said Matt McGrath, the recently hired operations manager at the Port, adding that the tariffs are not an incentive to charge the marina tenants more money. “This is basically keeping up with the consumer price index.”

The additions focus largely on fish landed by the four seafood processors operating in Astoria, including Bornstein Seafoods, Da Yang Seafoods, West Bay Marketing and Pacific Seafood. Two representatives from the seafood industry spoke during public comment, including boat operator Kevin Dunn, who delivers to Bornstein, and Andrew Bornstein, a co-owner with his siblings of Bornstein Seafoods and the operator of the company’s Astoria plant.

Dunn said he grosses about $35,000 on a six-day trip, subtracting that to a net of about $25,000 after a raft of various fees, fuel, a federal fisheries observer and ice. “I just don’t need another fee.”

The landing fees, said Bornstein, send a message to the seafood industry that it isn’t wanted in Astoria. The boats bringing fish to Astoria, he added, will think about the fee every time they decide to go to Astoria or another nearby Port.

An average boat delivering seafood to the Port, estimated Bornstein shortly after the meeting, can bring in anywhere from 100 to 500,000 pounds of seafood in one trip. Translated into the Port’s proposed fee structure per 1,000 kilograms, it could cost a fisherman anywhere between 17 cents and more than $889 per incoming trip.

Other tariff additions include:

• A vessel berthing cancellation fee of $250.

• A West End Mooring Basin daily electrical rate of $10 for 50-amp service.

The Port also proposes increasing dockage rates by 2 percent, along with moorage rates by $2 to $3 per foot at the West End Mooring Basin and electrical use by $2 per day. At North Tongue Point, the Port proposes 2-percent increases to labor and line service, passenger traffic service, security fees, wharfage and service and facilities fees.

Tariff No. 11, said Port staff, has not been updated to keep up with the consumer price index for four years at North Tongue Point and three years for its marinas. The fees are used to help repair the Port’s infrastructure.

After the testimony of Dunn and Bornstein and the introduction to the tariff by McGrath, the Port Commission voted to keep the public hearing open until the next reading of the tariff. Comments can be sent to 10 Pier 1, Suite 308, Astoria, OR 97103. The Port also receives emails at admin@portofastoria.com

The second reading of the tariff is Sept. 16, when the public can again make oral arguments. The tariff could become effective Oct. 1 if passed.

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