Major Infrastructure Projects Underway at Smaller West Coast Ports

Port of Hueneme harbor deepening in progress during January 2021. Photo courtesy of the Port of Hueneme.

Smaller ports on the West Coast have been investing in their future in a major way.

Officials are looking toward modernization with infrastructure projects focused on reducing emissions, improving efficiency, enhancing rail systems and increasing shore power. Some are also looking at enhancing maneuverability to accommodate bigger ships.

Here are some of the highlights of a few of the projects shared with Pacific Maritime Magazine by a number of ports along the West Coast.


Although the Port of Hueneme is considered small, it’s also in a key location as the only commercial deepwater port between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“We are a vital niche market port for autos, fresh produce, general cargo, bulk liquids and fish,” Port of Hueneme Chief Operating Officer Christina Birdsey said.

Hueneme moves about $11.4 billion in cargo annually and is the top West Coast banana port – moving more than five billion pieces of the fruit each year, port officials said.

The port is working on infrastructure projects to improve maneuverability and shore power as well as reduce emissions.

Officials announced last September that Hueneme was awarded a $5.1 million grant from the Economic Development Administration to assist the continuation of a deepening project. The funds are expected to help complete wharf improvements and additional dredging to go from 35 feet to 40 feet, Birdsey explained.

“This allows our existing customers to load vessels heavier and maximize the vessel call’s utilization,” she said. “It also reduces the need for some vessels to wait for tides to enter the port, thus reducing idling emissions.”

The project also includes installing 600 feet of sheet pile wall, demolishing old and installing new fender and mooring systems, repairing dilapidated areas of the concrete deck and installing a passive cathodic protection system.

Vessels already don’t need to run their engines while plugged in at the berth located on the south terminal, but these recent infrastructure improvements will further support the utilization of shore side power at the port.

“Since 2008, the port has reduced its emissions by 97% in large part to the success of the shore side power system, which allows vessels to plug in to the electrical system and turn off their engines while working at port,” Birdsey said.

In the announcement, officials also noted that once completed, the project would modernize the wharf and pier structure to mitigate moderate seismic episodes and add to climate resiliency, while also helping with recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic, creating and retaining jobs and strengthening the regional economy.

“We are excited to receive this economic development grant. It is both an environmental win and a community win,” CEO & Port Director Kristin Decas said. “This award will be used to improve berthing that supports shore side power for zero-emission dockage.”

One of two new Port of Hueneme electric terminal tractors (eUTRs) manufactured by Kalmar and funded through a Zero-and Near Zero-Emission Freight Facilities (ZANZEFF) grant. Photo courtesy of the Port of Hueneme.

In December, the Oxnard Harbor District approved a contract to provide stevedores with the ability to utilize the district’s existing two new electric terminal tractors, or eUTRs.

“These two electric yard trucks provide the port’s stevedores with the ability to easily and efficiently move cargo from ship to shore in a manner that is completely zero-emission,” Decas said. “We are thankful to have the infrastructure in place to charge electric cargo handling equipment such as these electric UTRs on port.”

The new eUTRs are funded through a Zero-and Near Zero-Emission Freight Facilities (ZANZEFF) grant project. In 2018, the California Air Resources Board awarded $3 million to the port to fund a ship to shore zero emission energy project. The project was a part of a joint application with the Port of Los Angeles for the statewide ZANZEFF grant solicitation funded through the state’s cap-and-trade dollars.

The eUTRs and associated infrastructure are the first phase of the overarching eCrane Power Infrastructure Project, which is part of the ZANZEFF grant awarded in coordination with the POLA, Birdsey explained.

“This phase of the project will put in the electrical infrastructure to allow our stevedores’ mobile hybrid cranes to plug-in to electrical power while working alongside the vessels (and) reducing diesel emissions,” she said, adding that they potentially have more coming in the future.

The power infrastructure project is currently underway and hopefully will be finished by January 2023, Birdsey said, although there have been some delays in supply chain and an increase in cost.

“As a small port, we still have the same regulations and deadlines (as the bigger ports), but smaller pocketbooks,” she said, noting that Hueneme has to work to ensure the port gets equitable funding for infrastructure projects.

Officials are also working on a demolition and staging improvement project at building 1A at the port.

“This will remove an obsolete warehouse and enhance electrical infrastructure to increase reefer plug-in capacity,” Birdsey said. “It will also improve cargo handling efficiency and increase staging capacity.”

Also in the works, the North Terminal Shore Power Project would build needed infrastructure to allow for additional vessels to plug into shore power, Birdsey said, and also increase flexibility for vessels currently capable of plugging in.

“This work will also include coordination with SCE to design and build transmission infrastructure for plugging in these vessels,” she remarked.

The recently acquired Terminal One (formerly the Georgia-Pacific Mill site). Photo courtesy of the Port of Coos Bay.


At the Port of Coos Bay, the focus is on two major multimodal projects that facilitate economic development opportunities and the continued success of port operations and facilities, explained port Director of External Affairs and Business Development Margaret Barber.

The Pacific Coast Intermodal Project is the development of a rail-served maritime terminal that is projected to move about a million containers per year, Barber explained.

The port recently executed a lease agreement with the developer, NorthPoint Development headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, to construct the multimodal container facility on the North Spit. The developer is designing the facility to be state of the art in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That will be achieved by utilizing 99.5% rail for landside movements and electrification of the terminal and equipment at the container yard, Barber noted.

The rail spur on the North Spit will be extended to the project site and infrastructure improvements will be completed to accommodate double-stack container movements on the remainder of the line.

Officials noted that the project aims to increase West Coast freight capacity by at least 10%, provide faster delivery of imported goods from Asia and create an easier outlet for agricultural and forest product exports.

Rail connectivity offered by the Coos Bay Rail Line is critical in NorthPoint’s business model. Landside movement of goods would almost exclusively utilize freight rail transport to aid in efficiency, cost effectiveness and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions over trucking.

Total construction costs are estimated at $1.7 billion, and the project would support roughly 3,000 short-term construction jobs and 5,000 long-term jobs at completion. On May 23, the port submitted a grant application for over $1 billion to support necessary infrastructure improvements for the project.

“The port’s overarching mission is to cultivate economic development in both the region and the state of Oregon,” port Chief Executive Officer John Burns said. “This project is uniquely impactful because it will create a much-needed new gateway on the west coast that will ease ongoing congestion and supply chain issues along the U.S. western seaboard, as well as construct a facility to the highest environmental standards available.”

A rendering of the Pacific Coast Intermodal Project. Image courtesy of NorthPoint Development.

It’s anticipated that it will take about two years to complete the necessary permitting processes prior to initiating construction.

The project has received support from state and federal officials, including Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) personally delivered a letter to President Joe Biden in June requesting that federal funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act be utilized for the project.

“As our nation faces serious supply-chain disruptions, this project offers a blinding light at the end of the tunnel,” DeFazio wrote, noting the expanded port capacity, jobs creation and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. “Put simply, this project meets the moment.”

Several other representatives signed the letter with DeFazio, who serves as the chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The port also acquired the former Georgia-Pacific Mill site (now called Terminal One) in Coos Bay in January. It’s a 167-acre property with a 1,200-foot wharf and 12-railcar spur located on the Federal Navigation Channel. Water depth at the property is authorized to minus-37 feet MLLW with an adjacent turning basin.

“We are currently working with interested parties looking to develop a footprint here in Coos Bay,” Barber said. “The intent of the facility will be to serve multiple users, make repairs to the dock structure and expand the rail infrastructure serving the site.”

This terminal likely would be utilized for bulk, dry bulk and breakbulk cargoes.

“Acquisition of the property provides a unique opportunity for the port as the first rail-served marine terminal that the port has owned in its over century-long history,” officials explained in a statement announcing the deal.

Officials envision the property to cultivate multiple water and rail dependent industrial, manufacturing or import and export uses.

Multiple buildings on the property provide a total of about 85,000 square feet. Whether or not the facilities will remain on the site depends on the needs of future users.


A modernization project at the Port of Alaska is keeping officials busy this summer as they look to secure funding to help keep the project moving forward.

In as soon as eight years, some of the port’s aging docks could start closing due to corrosion and loss of load-bearing capacity if they are not replaced – possibly sooner if there is another big earthquake, according to engineers. The Port of Alaska Modernization Program (PAMP) aims to replace Anchorage’s aging docks and related infrastructure before it fails.

Port External Affairs Director Jim Jager said construction begins on a new administrative office onshore in August allowing the port to demolish the dock where it previously stood. Next summer, the North Extension Stabilization project kicks off phase 2A of their five-phase plan.

Overall, PAMP will improve operational safety and efficiency, accommodate modern shipping operations and improve resiliency, such as surviving extreme seismic events and sustaining ongoing cargo operations.

Officials plan to maintain normal cargo operations throughout PAMP. Final program scope, designs and schedule are still being determined based upon user needs and available funding.

Workers are also constructing a new petroleum and cement terminal that’s scheduled for completion this year.


The Port of San Francisco recently completed the first construction phase for the port’s Mission Bay Ferry Landing project, which began in 2016 with a feasibility study, followed by design and permitting in 2019. The second phase of construction is expected to be complete in 2024.

Officials plan to provide a new ferry facility to enable regional water-based public transportation and emergency response. The goal is to offer options for regional and trans-bay transit, to support current and future transit demand and reduce vehicular trips in the Mission Bay and Central Waterfront area.

The project also would provide transportation resiliency in the event of an earthquake, trans-bay connectivity failure or other unplanned events.

The Port of San Francisco and Water Emergency Transit Authority are leading the project with the support of other city and regional agencies.

Sara Hall has 15 years of experience at several regional and national magazines, online news outlets, and daily and weekly newspapers, where coverage has  included reporting on local harbor activities, marine-based news, and regional and state coastal agencies. Her work has included photography, writing, design and layout.