100,000th car marked at the Port

Port officials, shipping representatives, dock workers, local dignitaries and a Chrysler executive were among a crowd of about 30 people who watched alongside the Höegh Beijing cargo ship as the 100,000th automobile shipped from the Port of Grays Harbor was loaded on Wednesday.

The Chrysler vehicles are processed by Pasha Automotive Services and loaded onto Siem car carriers by Pasha Stevedoring & Terminals and Local 24 of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, then shipped out of Grays Harbor to ports in Asia.

A news release prepared for the ceremony said the number of Chrysler exports shipped out of Grays Harbor “greatly exceeds the estimated 25,000 units a year anticipated at the inception of business in January 2010, demonstrating a healthy growth for these partners in transportation.”

Pasha began operating at the Port a year prior to the Chrysler contract, and the automotive company plans to keep the cars rolling off of Grays Harbor docks well into the future.

“This Port is very important for us and for Chrysler,” said William Cook, senior manager of International Logistics and Customs for Chrysler. “The vehicles you are shipping out of here are going to Asia and the China market is important to our future.”

Cook noted that when the contract first started, there were many concerns about whether the automotive company would even still be in existence.

“I think we proved critics wrong and it’s good to see,” Cook said. “The product we are building is a lot better. The market is demanding and we can’t even keep up with the demand for these vehicles. … It’s very critical for us to have this Port operationally working the way it’s working.

“I think it surprised everybody at how fast we got to 100,000, and we have high hopes for continued growth.”

Michael Pasha, general manager for Pasha Automotive Services, said he hoped to have the same sort of success on Grays Harbor that the company experienced when it started operations at the San Diego Port in 1990. The first year in San Diego, the company shipped 30,000 cars, and it now has surpassed 4 million.

“The same potential exists at the Port of Grays Harbor,” he said. “We have nowhere to go but up, thanks to prestigious partners like Chrysler, Siem and, of course, the Port.”

The Grays Harbor Port provides a deep water berth in a strategic shipping location with available property “and a solid motivated local workforce,” the company said in a statement prior to the ceremony. The company will be “rapidly expanding its operations” to capitalize on “the growing demand overseas for U.S. manufactured vehicles.”

Simon Stevens, chairman of Siem Car Carrier Inc., thanked the Port for the success of the enterprise. Siem offers what is called “roll on, roll off (RO-RO)” liner service between North America and Pacific Asia with sailings every two weeks between the West Coast, Mexico, Russia, Korea, China and Japan.

“We have demonstrated for the last two or three years now, by sitting down together and dealing with the challenges of building a new business, that we can make it work,” he said.

Port Commission President Chuck Caldwell called the event “an awesome milestone.”

As a longtime commissioner, Caldwell said, “I thought I would count 100,000 logs but I never thought I would count 100,000 cars” being shipped from Port facilities.