March 4 - California's Port of Stockton is making a strategic move into serving box lines thanks to an USD18 million TIGER discretionary federal grant (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery).

The US west coast port is well known in the shipping world for specialising in OOG and heavy lift cargo and is keen to point out it is not abandoning non-containerised activity, according to Bill Lewicki, marketing director. He says: "We have traditionally been known for non-containerised traffic and we will definitely be remaining in this field. We see good traffic in items such as renewable energy components. It is just that containerised traffic brings new jobs to the area." The local area is suffering from a 20 percent unemployment level.

The USD18 million grant is part of a USD30 million programme to create a 'marine highway system' between Oakland and the ports of Stockton and Sacramento to persuade hauliers to switch modes from highway transport to coastal shipping along the 140 nautical mile journey between the three cities.

The grant, along with a further USD3 million in local funding, will be invested in two new harbour cranes, infrastructure improvements such as 1 km of extra railroad lines, a paved area, a secure cargo storage area of around 122,000 sq m and other improvements, including the possible removal of transit sheds.

Lewicki adds: "Now we have the funding, managers will start to look at what is available in the crane market. We should have made the decision in about 18 months."

The significance of the investment is underlined by the benefits it ought to bring to the local population: almost 1,000 direct and indirect jobs should be created during the infrastructure improvements whilst around 100 permanent jobs should be added when the development is complete.