Cold Storage: Interest In Port Facility Rises As Temperature Drops

Published: October 1, 2008

By Scott Graves
Pilot staff writer


The cold storage facility at the Port of Brookings Harbor on Monday was at minus 10 degrees and filling up fast as word of its renewed operation spread up and down the West Coast.

“We’re getting a much better response than I thought we would,” said Ted Fitzgerald, interim port manager.

That’s good news for a port struggling to raise revenue to pay off its massive debt. The port commission voted in September to turn its cold storage facility back on in an effort to make money. The $1.3 million facility was closed in 2004 after drawing nary a customer.

That changed this year when the closest cold storage facility, in Eureka, Calif., was closed down. A similar facility at the Crescent City Port closed years ago. Brookings port officials saw the closing of the Eureka facility as an opportunity to reclaim business it had lost to the other ports.

On Tuesday, as the port’s cold storage building reached an icy minus 10 degrees, boxes of bait to be used by crab fishermen later this season were stacking up. So far, contracted fishermen of the West Coast fish processing company Pacific Choice Seafood are the only ones to be using the port’s facility, “but we’ve received two or three calls from other interested parties,” Fitzgerald said.

Pacific Choice currently stores its bait and fish product in parked cold trailers at the Port of Brookings Harbor. Fitzgerald hopes the fish packers will ditch the trailers and use the port’s cold storage building – for bait as well as crab and fish delivered by commercial fishermen working on contract with the fish processors.

“We want to make it an affordable option for the fish processors while making it profitable for the port,” Fitzgerald said about the cold storage facility. “This building has a lot of potential and the word is getting out.”

The facility has the capacity to store 467,500 pounds on the ground floor. With shelves, it could store up to 840,000 pounds, according to Port Commissioner Jim Relaford.

Relaford said that this is the first positive move the port has made in the last three years to generate new revenue.

The port would charge for bringing product in and apply a monthly charge for holding the product.

“It’s nice to see product in there,” Relaford said Tuesday. “After all these years we might make a nickle or two.”

The Eureka facility closed in September because its equipment wasn’t up to code; the Crescent City facility property wasn’t actually zoned for cold storage.

The Port of Brookings Harbor’s facility is state-of-the-art, Fitzgerald said.

“It was a great idea when it was built, it just wasn’t implemented correctly,” he said. “Now we get another chance to do it right.”