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E-Mail Forum
August 17, 2006

See Container Port Overlay

I believe I received more responses from my E-FORUMS on the proposed container port than any issue I have written about in a long time. While I make no claims that either E-FORUM readers or E-FORUM responders are a statistically accurate representation of public opinion, this is my constituency, and they have made it load and clear that this container port idea is a non-starter. Maybe some of my City Council colleagues have constituencies that belief this is great stuff, but I sure havenít heard from them.

Almost all of them were negative toward the idea of a new container port at Wildcat Marsh. I have excerpted all of the comments, both positive and negative in this E-FORUM.

One comment I want to highlight is as follows:

For those of us in Oakland, the problems of Richmond seem familiar enough to wonder if  the solutions proposed are comprehensive enough to actually effect a cure. Though directly adjacent to the Port of Oakland, West Oakland's problems of low employment, high crime, struggling schools and poor air quality continue on unabated - all despite the concentrated efforts of community groups, concerned Councilpersons, Port / City liaison committees, etc.  So, just having a port nearby isn't going to change life much in Richmond if Oakland's experience is any model, lending a lot of heft to Tom's argument, as follows:

This is particularly interesting because of the claim of advocates of the Richmond container port that it will provide sufficient jobs and income to wipe out crime and inner city unemployment.

The Port of Oakland has not exactly lifted that city out of crime and poverty. What evidence is there that a significantly smaller (one-half the size) operation in Richmond some 15 years in the future will have any different effect?

The Port of Oakland is the third largest container-ship port on the West Coast.  The Port has approximately 759 acres of developed terminal area, served by 35 container cranes, including 29 of the Post-Panamax type, and 20 deepwater berths with a total of 21,784 linear feet of berthing length.  Another $700 million in new projects, including new terminals, are currently under planning and construction.  The fourth largest seaport in the nation, the Port of Oakland handles 98% of all the containerized cargo that passes through Northern California ports.  Located at the terminus of three transcontinental railroads and four interstate highways, the Port of Oakland is a key West Coast Intermodal connection and the hub of Northern California's distribution system.  The Port handled the equivalent of 1,707,827 twenty-foot containers in 2002 (TEU Containers). (http://www.edab.org/index.html?BODY=region.html)

Another claim made by Richmond port advocates is that existing container ports are at capacity. I talked to Kenneth S. Katzoff, the Port of Oakland commissioner who chairs the Maritime Committee, and he told me that the Port of Oakland is at only 50% capacity. He encouraged Richmond to continue to focus on its niche markets of automobiles, bulk commodities and liquids.

A credible BCDC source noted that The Bay Plan designates the Richmond Sanitary Landfill site as a waterfront park and beach site. The Wildcat Creek wetland is designated as a tidal

marsh. The Chevron refinery, except for the Long Wharf, is designated as a water-related industry. In theory, it would be feasible to operate a port adjacent to (not in) the Wildcat Creek tidal marsh (the Port of Oakland is developing a wetland enhancement project in the midst of the Port's operations at Middle Harbor, and Heron Head Park which contains a marsh, is adjacent to the Port of San Francisco's container facilities at Pier 98) there are a number of practical problems that would have be addressed in making part of the refinery property available for port use. It's not clear whether there is enough space on the Chevron property to accommodate the necessary cargo throughput. Getting truck and train access  through the refinery would be difficult. And dredging would probably be needed to get water access to the site. In short, the obstacles seem significant, the costs high, and the advantages unclear at this point.

An aerial photo of the proposed location (Wildcat marsh) overlaid with a 500-acre swath of container terminal at the same scale lifted from Oakland is shown in the attached PDF file.

  • Sell children? Swiftian. You are the best fulminator I have EVER known. Seriously, Tom, , you are probably spot on in your overall conclusions Ė Iíve learned that you usually are -- but on impt subpoints (jobs, truck emissions, economic value to Richmond, port of Oakland capacity for expansion) I think you will be surprised by what Ezra reportsÖ.Donít hate me for getting this started.
  • Great column.   You should have been a journalist, but the pay is terrible. 
  • BCDC should be alerted. 
  • Richmond doesn't need more revenue but they do need to provide the service we are already paying for.  The residents of May Valley are currently drafting a letter to the Mayor and Police Chief about the severe lack of police protection for this area the past year.  There has been a horrendous amount of vandalism and car related crimes, none of which would have happened with more police coverage.  We are planning an emergency meeting of the May Valley Neighborhood Council at the Community Center on July 27 if you want to attend.  Personally, my husband didn't like getting his rear car window broken out in May and I didn't like getting bullet holes in my windshield and dents from a bullet above my gas tank in June!  I'm not getting my car fixed just so that I can show people what happens around here.
  • So entertaining!.  No fiction writer could make this stuff up.  Hopefully Bill Lindsay will keep them from driving over the cliff.


  • Iím just in from setting up to harvest from my hives, and see thisÖYou shld know that I have touted this idea to City staff (and Irma and Bill Lindsay), just as I did to you directly over lunch.  The road to hell is paved, etc., etc., but the motivation is sincere...Now, I absolutely defer to you on this, and not just in your capacity as a councilmember.  From your email I must concede that, once again, you have better facts Ė even a better pix Ė than Iíve been able to get. So if Ė as? --you think this is a rotten idea itíll never pass my lips again. But I still think it is worth discussing, not least to prompt thoughtful discussion of what should happen with the existing Port of Richmond. And remember, Iím a Port(s) supporter, a Richmond supporter and a Tom Butt supporter, not necessarily in that order.
  • Tom, another container port for Richmond?!!! That is the silliest idea that I have yet heard coming from City Hall and I have seen some stunning incompetence! So, Richmond has one failed container port that is adjacent to a freeway, has deep water access, and undeveloped rail access and they want to build another that will require extensive dredging, has a very small frontage, and will do extensive environmental damage. May I suggest that the Port of Richmond be contracted out. The current management is obviously incompetent!
  • Good on you for getting the word out.
  • No,no,no!!!!!!  Let me know where and when to enlist for this battle.
  • Thanks for the heads up. Many birds could be killed with one stone: 1. Create a luxury home area from the bridge to the dump along the coast and up into the hills. There could be thousands of units. 2. Create revenue from land sales. 3. Create a property tax base. 4. Permanently preserve the benign aspects of the shoreline. 5. Greatly increase Richmond's appeal, making it the premier coastal city in the Bay Area, and possibly even California, the USA and the World. [Have you ever been way out on Pt. Molate road (i.e. Western Drive) at sunset on a summer's day. There are few places in the Bay Area that are so serene, with a beautiful view of Mt. Tamalpais.]
  • Richmond can be paradise. With enhanced property, and a ferry port, taxes will increase, creating funds for recreational areas and improved schooling for the poor in the inner city, dramatically reducing crime.
  • The most amazing development would be if the Chevron pier could be turned into a Santa Cruz-like Boardwalk.
  • Let's work to fulfill the vision of Richmond as the premier coastal city. Thanks for listening,
  • Additional comment to below. To clarify, the message below is in response to people wanting to make a container port out of the north shore. If people want revenue for the city, read below. What would you rather have: a big, ugly container port, ruining the ecology and dragging Richmond further down the path of waste caused by having Chevron and Santa Fe take up the most prime real estate in the world, or using that prime real estate for attracting buyers from around the world to move into view homes in a world-class setting? If the City wants to think big, they should move beyond the trends set up 100 years ago by industry.
  • I am a voter, and a tax payer living in Richmond and I strongly oppose any Container Port on the Richmond Shore. Please consider other ways to make revenue for the city and drop this irresponsible idea
  • Container terminals require a huge amount of dry land for cranes, storage of containers and loading/off loading trucks and trains. It appears that this may involve the West Parkway Redevelopment Area approved by the City Council last year after completion of a Final EIR dated May 2005. Of course, the FEIR did not contemplate this type of use for the land with the resulting huge environmental, traffic and other impacts.
  • Gracious, generousÖ.Now, my source for all the positive thinking Iíve had re: this idea is Ezra Rapport, usually (like you) right, always (like you) smart and entertaining. Would you be willing to hear Ezra out?  Lunch?  In Richmond? Iíd be a spectator at a tennis match. Until/unless you deem it un-heretical, I will not support this concept. But I ask you to hear Ezra out.
  • Thanks very much for keeping me informed!!! Hadn't heard about that one ...
  • Great.  This will be fun. But Tom, Ezra is a friend of mine, I respect him a lot, And I asked him to take an interest in this issue. So please be nice. I mean, if this idea is a dud, blame it on me, not Ezra.
  • Why is it bad?
  • You omitted mention of the environmental issue of diesel exhaust from container ships. While I wouldn't categorically declare staff's exploration of this to be wrong-headed on the merit's [it's apparent to even a layperson such as myself that there is natural potential for a multi-modal transport hub there by the BNSF], I would want to be sure that air quality standards would be imposed on the shipping line companies that would prevent aggravation of Richmond's already serious public health problems from air quality. I have heard that the CEO of the Port of LA/Long Beach has been moving to impose real standards on the shipping companies there ... though progress hasn't been at the pace that near-by residents deserve and want.
  • It seems to me that if the container port idea were to have legs, the potential jump in biz for the BNSF & the UP could be used as leverage with the RRs to extract serious concrete commitments on enviro and 'good neighbor' issues that they are responsible for ...
  • This would be a radical proposal, no doubt, with potentially disastrous public welfare outcomes if the companies involved were permitted to evade responsibility for mitigating down to zero their probable impacts. But I'd be curious about whether such mitigations are feasible ... If they weren't, yeah, throw the proposal into the trash can. my two cents ...
  • It was great seeing you and Shirley yesterday at the music gig. I hope you are able to open your thinking a little on the North Port thing.  I see significant benefits for the community.
  • 1000 times NO on the Wildcat Port! I agree with your coal mine analogy. Richmond never met a sleazy development it didn't like. When are this City's leaders going to stop treating Richmond as the arm pit of the Bay Area? But what's more disturbing is the perception that Richmond doesn't give a crap about what it's Citizens want and does all the wheeling and dealing behind closed doors without public input or notification. ( or maybe it's done over "lunch" while dining outside of Richmond, because there are only 2 decent restaurants in Richmond) Take today's paper, the secret deal to change road configurations in Parchester, or yesterdays paper about the crematorium or the waaaay toooo ugly box at the Point ( on public land! NO!) . Or should I mention the casino hotel housing deal for Molate? All done without public input or consent. This at the very least creates a public perception of 'the City that doesn't give a crap' to something far worse; corruption and illegality. Take another example: the recent 'outreach' for revising the general plan for the next thirty years. I rushed to the Richmond van at Point Isabel, where people mostly from OTHER cities walk their dogs, in hopes of adding my two cents to what should/could be done for my neighborhood. What did I get? There was not one word on the planning page about development or redevelopment! Instead it was a list of fuzzy vagaries such as "people", "neighborhoods", " parks" and "safety"  about things I "liked" about Richmond as well a list of things I didn't like, which oddly enough, was exactly the same like as the "like' list! No where did it ask what I thought the future should hold for my neighborhood or what I thought of developments such as Campus Bay, Pt Molate Casino, downtown, or for that matter the 'coal mine port' at Wildcat basin! . THIS CITY JUST DOESN'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT IT'S PEOPLE WANT! It doesn't care that we go else where to eat or shop, for instance, it's too busy in the 'smoke filled room'......
  • I do not usually reply but it would appear that the city planning department is out of control...they DO at least in theory work for the residents...but the back door way of approaching development at it's lowest level is really appalling and the city elected officials should now take action...all the department jobs and positions in planning should be looked at and written guidelines in place to protect the community before this group is reinstated..
  • Thanks Tom for sending this to me.  My husband is President of "The Friends of San Pablo Bay".  I forwarded this email to him.  He then forwarded it to the "Save San Pablo Bay" group and other interested persons at both the local and state level
  • I've heard that Jim Matzorkis has been meeting with Isiah Turner in Emeryville. You don't happen to know if the meetings are related to the proposed port, do ya?
  • Thanks for your bulldogging and whistleblowing, Tom. Richmond needs a general plan within which the staff must work..
  • Headline: Richmond City Staff shows initiative! Chastised by City Councilmember for not getting permission to think.
  • I ŗgree with your vote, tom
  • Keep fighting! We need new council members, yes.
  • Thanks Tom. We need to fight back against mega-corporations trying to come in and exploit our area. They will push us as far as we let them, as Toll Brothers proved. We need to focus on turning our area into a high quality environment that is an example for the rest of the world as to what environmentalists can achieve, with our beautiful bay, and not let the environment be ruined by greedy mega-corporations pushing us around in order to make a fast buck. If locals fight back hard enough, those corporations will look elsewhere for easier prey.
  • We ought to pass some special tax on very large corporations operating in this area, like Chevron for example, if there is a way to do that. They are just pushing us too far.
  • Thanks for sharing what happened on this issue and for putting us on alert about what the next battle will be.  After waiting 5 hours last night to speak about the Toll Bros. I could not hang in there any longer to hear the airing of the port issue.
  • I know I don't have to tell you, but last night's meeting was an outrage.  Absolute chaos with no leadership whatsoever by the Chair Irma Anderson.  She ought to be voted out of office simply for her inability to run a democratic and civilized meeting.
  • Thanks for standing up for what is right and stating what needs to be said both last night and at other meetings I have attended.
  • thanx, tom....i'm getting the word out to bcdc, epa, etc
  • Why not just tie me to a stake and burn me? I would rather that fate than to have a container port here.
  • Tom, you are the ONLY city council member that keeps me informed.  Can you please pass on the other Council members addresses so that I can make my thoughts known to them as well?
  • Tom - Thanks for the heads up!  We are working on the next election with the Sierra Club.
  • I agree with you Tom.
  • Excellent summary.  We continue to send you strong support as you stay firmly focused on rational and reasonable positions.
  • Am already planning my political contributions.....what candidates CAN we endorse?  Who is in the running?
  • Great job Tom!
  • I want to thank you for your very literate (and often witty) e-mails.  I do not live in Richmond, but work at the library, so I subscribed.
  • Councilman Butt: Yet another GOOD column!  We need you here - so don't even THINK about moving back to the Oxarks!!
  • I agree with you, Tom.  Dumbest idea yet!  Even if desirable, no way BCDC, etc will allow it. 
  • I hope there are some good alternative candidates for the Council in November!!
  • Thanks for the excellent newsletter.  Keep up the good work.
  • Kudos to you, Tom,
  • Thank you so much for the update, your vote, and your strong voice for preserving a livable city for the diverse communities of Richmond (including fish and wildlife).
  • So, let's see if I've got this. Richmond has one failed container port and now they want to build another with even worse location?!!! What a bunch of crap!!
  • As to your question at the end, while it might not be the "stupidest idea" I have heard of, it is stupid enough that I plan to get involved in resisting it.
  • There can be no doubt that this is not a good idea.  Come to the August 30 PRNC meeting to hear Dean OHair comment on it. On the other hand, if there were to be any use to the idea, it might be a way get all of the money (and commitments) needed to complete the Bay Trail in Richmond, to get all the money East Bay Regional Parks need to take care of any and all park improvements envisioned for the City and immediate region, to get BNSF to cut off the Richmond Avenue crossing, close their tunnel and expand their yard into the new port, to get a "green port", to get job-training moneys assuring hires from the City, North Richmond and San Pablo, to upgrade the "Richmond Parkway" into a freeway with several intersections, to rebuild the City's sewer system, and to rebuild/pave most of the City streets.   Even so, it is still not a good idea and for the reasons you have outlined.
  • You certainly "tell it like it "tiz!"  Amen, amen, amen!  What's difficult for me to understand, is the majority of Council members are "selling" their African-American brothers and sisters one whale of a bill of goods - that will do NOTHING for them!  In fact, every indication is that the changes in the City of Richmond, will INCREASE (NOT DECREASE) their oft-times desperate unemployment leading to poverty and ill health, with little in the way of "jobs" other than gun-and drug running. My reluctant conclusion is that these City Mothers and Fathers are concentrating on lining their own pocket

 to the detriment of some 45% of Richmond's population - and missing a HUGE opportunity to bring good jobs, companies and employment to our city and would stimulate the younger population to study and prepare themselves for LEGAL, good-paying jobs!  What incentive, after all, is there to study for job or career that isn't there

  • Tom, this is your best one yet. 
  • Nothing but whores (My apologies to the Ladies of the Night) involved in this project, all of them making money selling out Richmond and promising jobs that are not going to happen.  Same thing happened with the Casino deal --- "We are all going to have jobs" -- and Richmond gave away the finest piece of land it owned.   Lindsey & his crew are nothing but a tool of the developers, chamber and any other interest that might send a dollar his way.  Disgraceful. 
  • Thanks for being there, but for the life of me I do not know how you continue to do it
  • Amen Tom, amenÖ
  • I completely agree with everything you say.  I hope this gets in the newspaper.   Any other city in California would look at this proposal with absolute horror.  Not Richmond though.  If a business is polluting, noisy, dirty they put out the welcome mat.
  • Thank you for saying it like it is.  Another point to remember is that all jobs at ports are union jobs. 
  • I certainly feel the same way. just look at the port facilities we have now and how we have mismanaged them. what makes anyone think that a new start with a bigger terminal would make any difference? drive down right behind city hall and see the underutilized facility there. I know itís undersized for today's ships but we designed it , built it and mismanaged it. what makes anyone think that we could do better next time around?
  • Thank you, Tom, for a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece on the unemployment issue vs. improper industrial development. Richmond is desperately in need of some leaders who are willing to think differently. You are absolutely right (as I see it) on the problem of the unemployed in Richmond.
  • Letís look instead at reusing all those industrial buildings by recruiting green manufacturers and clean businesses. I saw in the paper that Clif Bars has just moved to Alameda. Did Richmond try to lure them here? Anyway, thanks for keeping all of us on our toes.
  • Is everyone asleep on this ?? what can I do to WORK for the city?? These issues just fly by without many people noticing until they're complete.
  • Ideas of how I can better make an impact? I go to the meetings I think make a difference now...??
  • Have you alerted the Save the Bay, The Bay Institute, Friends of the Estuary, EPA (Goals Project), Audubon Society?  All of these organization are very keen about wetlands and of course Anne Riley of the SFRWQCB is a star when it comes to Wildcat Canyon and the Marsh. If you need names and phone number or emails, let me know.
  • P.S.  I am on the board of directors for the Friends.
  • You are right on, and your reasoning is sound!  Thanks, and keep the pressure on.....
  • Thank you, Tom, for this well thought out and passionate piece. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Both your caring for the people (and young people) of Richmond as well as for the special environment of this place come through in your writing.
  • Tom, I absolutely agree with you.  If my plate were not so full, I would begin a campaign against it.  I can certainly help though.  Another "feasibility study", when reasonable people should just say "no", and look to real solutions.
  • Absolutely Tom!
  • Unfortunately, in this case, not Richmond residents, but West Contra Costans opposed to the idea. However we can help, let us know!
  • Who is paying for the study? Hard to argue against a study. Perhaps you could suggest that the people who are going to pay for it be identified, they pay for the study by a group of consultants mutually agreed-upon, and staff time be reasonably paid for. I think rational behavior for Chevron is to seek the highest and best use for their land. The City should cooperate, within the strictures of law and reason. But the landowner, and eventual beneficiary, should take on the feasibility study. If they arenít willing to spot that amount, why should the City risk another fairy tale? More likely, this isnít a fairy tale at all, but a highly profitable maneuver.
  • To your question as to whether or not anyone else feels it is the stupidest thing ever. I am still gathering facts and info so I am not prepared yet to say how I will vote on this. That said all the points you have raised are valid and compelling and I don't see the viability or need of expanding a port if it means paving over Marsh and estuary. I also don't favor any initiative that will have a negative impact on our health. Your info about Wildcat Marsh (which I knew nothing about previously) have been informative. Please let me know if there is any other new information you think I need to consider about this project.
  • When you and I were on the Shoreline Development Project you will recall that the consultant (Manolitics?) told us that a container port in Richmond was not feasible because of the limited space for storage and because it is more expensive to ship containers over the Sierras than from either Seattle or Long Beach. to the East.  I guess you can get a consultant to say anything.
  • Yes i agree with you re the port idea.  what can i do as one little citizen?
  • Tom, I agree with you 100%.  How do we make this initiative go away?
  • Tom:  Since you asked, I agree one hundred percent. Also, the pollution from dredging up the bay, and the pollution from operation should give pause to this pollution ridden city. Don't the Greens oppose this crazy venture?
  • Please send your container port posting to the WC Times letters to the editor, as well as the Chronicle, and whatever other local papers there are out there.  What a joke this city government is -- a greedy, nasty, sick joke on the people of Richmond!
  • At the last Planning Commission, I watched on TV as a half dozen or so Chamber of Commerce types and inner-city African-Americans added hearty support for the Terminal One project, characterizing it as a godsend to assist in the rejuvenation of downtown Richmond and a boon to construction workers who now must travel long distances to get work.  I was wishing someone had urged them to check out the Toll Brothers operation at Seacliff Estates -- they'd search in vain for an African-American face.  I've never seen a single African-American crew member in the development.  The pro-TOne speakers were all also enthusiastic about the project's "prevailing wage" provisions.  I urge them to check the wages being paid to Toll's workers, who are overwhelmingly Latino.  I'd request an inspection by INS enforcement officers if I thought they'd arrest Toll instead South American immigrants (legal or not) who so desperately need this work.  Is Toll really paying a premium wage to most of its workers?  And just out of curiosity, how does the Terminal One project help rejuvenate downtown Richmond? And what about the sewer question?  The sewer "expert" they trotted out at the Planning Commission meeting was incredible!  He said with a straight face that the City plant facilities afford ample capacity for 1000 more sewer hookups on the Point, closed his official-looking notebook and made ready to sit down.  Seconds later, when asked about delivery capacity, he admitted that that aspect of the project could present a problem and that a comprehensive study would have to be conducted before the question could be answered.  But no reason not to approve the EIR and get on with the project! And while I'm on this rant, how is it legal for the City to include baksheesh income from Toll Brothers in the City budget for 2007 before the project has even been approved?  Has the deal already gone down?  Has the approval been granted on the sly and is it useless to attend any more design review or planning meetings?  If the City has accepted amelioration funds from Toll for general fund spending before the project has been approved, isn't that at least the appearance of malfeasance and isn't a criminal investigation in order?
  •  I am opposed to building a container port on/in our marshlands. The claim that it will provide jobs, although inspiring, has not proven to be the fact ( let's take Chevron as an example...most of its employees do not live in Richmond.) As with these dodgy Toll Brothers projects, we are selling off our only assets for short term satisfaction. 
  • I feel that the "fix" our city needs financially is NOT to find new money to waste, but stop wasting the money we already have. And if, by some miracle, this project were to slightly  help stabilize the city financially and address our employment problems... who cares if the quality of life is decreased to the extent that traffic and trains are a nightmare, our air continues to be polluted and we become even more industrial. As home owners in Point Richmond, we are opposed to you selling our quality of life in the future...for all time... in order to try to fix problems that exist today. The container port is not the answer.
  • As for Chevron...until the president of Chevron chooses top live within range of the refinery or proposed container port, we do not care what Chevron wants. I am tired of feeling like my city officials are employees of big industry.
  • You didn't even mention the environmental and health impacts to Richmond neighborhoods.   Has the City Council discussed this as part an economic development strategic plan? I remember when the Richmond Parkway was being built and part of the selling point to get federal and additional state funding to complete the Parkway was it proximity to our freeways and bridges that was to attract R&D businesses to West County (I remember Isaiah saying it was part of the region's economic development strategy).   
  • agree completely; this is a misguided plan! we should be concerned about protecting and preserving our existing open space in Richmond rather than creating more heavily industrialized spaces in marshes!
  • Tom - Thanks for another well-written, well-thought-out and informative update on the newest Richmond fiasco.  I'm always amazed how you can write so many thoughtful, literate, well-researched forum articles, as busy as you are both professionally and civically.  I find them very helpful.
  • Tom:  it isn't the stupidest, but most of your points are well taken in re: Richmond's present needs.  The very worst part of the container port is where it is proposed to be built...protecting that marshland is very, very important. But my guess is that the traffic infrastructure problems for a container port somewhere around that area could be handled; the money mostly would come from investors, and ultimately (10/20 years down the pike) Richmond would benefit (as Oakland has financially) from a well designed container port. But in-between, you are right as rain...and our City gov't would screw everything in-between up so badly many would decide that the effort wasn't worth the candle.  Possibly this is time for Richmond to "keep their eye on the prize" and concentrate on the here and now...
  • Hi Tom;  I heard that new container ships are being developed  with a draft of  50 ft or more   and  that  only the  Long Beach Port  has that capacity.  I believe the Bay channel is about 40 -44 feet. thus illuminating the Bay Area ports from servicing the new container ships.  If this is true,  it does  not seem logical to build another container port.