After celebrating two record years of revenue for the Port of Redwood City, staff and commissioners are optimistic for its future despite a slowdown in construction due to COVID-19. 

“The port was doing OK the last two years. They were record years but we are anticipating a slow down until companies can get back to work and there’s material and stuff needed for projects,” said Ralph Garcia, chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners.

Most materials imported through the port include dry raw materials for both commercial and public works projects. Many development projects were put on hold after restrictions permitted only those that were deemed vital to public safety. Permit processing has also been at a standstill due to the offices tasked with filing the paperwork being closed except for those performing essential services. 

“When the governor issued the shelter-in-place order, at the time he determined essential business included public works and infructructon products which was good for us. At the time I kept seeing ships and raw materials coming in,” said port Executive Director Kristine Zortman. 

In January, the port commissioners approved a long-term vision plan that includes diversifying products brought in and out of their docks. Zortman said the push to expand commodities and recreational uses was to buffer any losses experienced during a construction downturn such as now. 

“Now that it’s back up and functional and people are building we’re hopeful,” she said.

Both she and Garcia said it is too early to tell what effect the novel coronavirus will have on port revenue but Zortman noted they are running 15% behind last year’s numbers which may or may not be associated with the virus. 

“If we see an impact, that will be latent and we’re hoping with the lift of restrictions, the effects will be nominal, if any at all,” said Zortman. “We’re still seeing strong imports coming in and exports have not decreased so if there is an impact, we’re ready to weather them.” 

The mile-long port serves as an entryway to Silicon Valley for trade partners including Australia, Canada and Mexico, while exports travel to Asia and South America. After generating $9.3 million in revenue and over 2.65 million metric tons of cargo, the port contributes nearly $550,000 to the city of Redwood City. 

“We just had a historic high in revenue but we’re waiting to see what the impacts are. And we’re budgeting up to 20% of loss and planning conservatively. We think that will get us into the summer and fall before we can assess the impacts,” said Zortman.

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