Danish contingent visits the Port

A group of Danish port and shipping officials wrapped up a tour of West Coast ports Friday with a close look at the Port of Grays Harbor.

The highlights included a tour of the Paneltech facility, where resin-reinforced composite panels are produced out of recycled materials, and a tour of the new Reed Composite Solutions business that has begun operations in the Port’s Coastal Innovation Zone facility.

The Danish contingent included seven port directors, two members of the Associated Danish Ports, and a cultural liaison. They met with Port commissioners and local administrators.

Jens Peter Peters, the administrative director and CEO of the Danish port association, said he had previously visited and worked with the Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., ports and was very impressed with the Grays Harbor facilities.

“I think you have an American word for it, and that is ‘awesome,’ ” Peters said. “It was very impressive that you are not only thinking port-wise, but also thinking about added value and trying to use the products that are in the port to build on further.”

Tom Elmer Christensen, director of Danske Havne, the national association of commercial ports in Denmark, noted the group had visited the ports of Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco and Stockton in California, and Longview before touring the Grays Harbor Port. He said the local facilities most closely resemble their Danish counterparts.

“It’s very interesting to see how fine and strategic they work to develop value for their customers,” he said of Grays Harbor’s port administration. “They help establish new initiatives, but for the good of the customers. That’s exactly what we are looking for – a new way of thinking.”

Peters said he has noticed that Grays Harbor’s port is “part of a junction system” of transportation that includes “rail directly in their backyard.”

“They are linked directly to the customers, who have to get their products away from the production site, such as the Midwest with grain for example,” Peters said. “They managed to build up the warehouses and silos and then they are able to fit that in with ship sizes that fit the customer on the other end. A port is not alone, and there is a port on the other end. We are only a part of the transport chain.”

The bigger ports have developed fine systems for moving container cargo, and for “transportation alone they are second to none,” Christensen said. But a port like Grays Harbor is able to handle a lot of different commodities not based in container shipping, such as logs, agricultural products, building materials and vehicles.

The ports in Denmark and ports in the U.S. all have the same overall goals, Peters said.

“New industries and employment, that is the most important product. That’s true not only out here but all over,” Peters said.

“You can use the port to develop new growth in an area,” Christensen added. “I think that’s what we have learned here.”

One of the advantages Grays Harbor has over many other ports is cost, Peters noted. “Everything is a question of cost. If you are too expensive, you won’t get the cargo,” he said. “Sea transport is like water in your hand. It finds the easiest route to run out of your hand.”

Grays Harbor Port Executive Director Gary Nelson said he felt honored the group included Grays Harbor on its West Coast tour.

“They went to all of these big ports and then found a way to put Grays Harbor on their agenda,” Thompson said.

He noted that Denmark is known as the home to the innovation zone concept the local port has launched for new start-up businesses, first with Wishkah River Distillery and now with Reed Composite Solutions, which plans to produce composite laminate materials for aerospace, defense, building products and automotive manufacturing among other services.

“They are in the same business we are,” he said of his Danish counterparts. “They have some mega ports and then some small and medium-sized ports.”

Of all the West Coast ports on the tour, Grays Harbor, Longview and Stockton seemed more like Danish ports, said Bjarne Henriksen of the Danish Ports Association.

“We’re looking at this as what we could learn from you as well,” he said. Asked what that was, Henriksen said it was “the integration of the port with business development. You have an investment model of going in as a partner in creating businesses.”