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Port of Oswego makes big gains in 2014, wants to improve operating model in 2015

Gino Geruntino
The Port of Oswego received several pieces of new equipment last winter. The port's executive director says they have helped the facility immensely. (file photo)

The summer shipping season is about to come to an end for the Port of Oswego. The port says its seen growth in the amount of goods coming through its facility, which it attributes to recent infrastructure investments and the continued success of several companies the port does business with.

According to the American Great Lakes Ports Association, the St. Lawrence Seaway saw a five percent increase in cargo coming through its system this season, but that pales in comparison to the success the port has seen this year.

"As far as the aluminum, it's a 28 percent growth this year," said Port of Oswego Executive Director Zelko Kirincich. "As far as our rail car traffic, it's over 100 percent. We have doubled our rail car traffic through here. I expect that number only to be greater next year. We're on the rise, and again we have to continually tune our machine."

There was also a record number of soybeans shipped to the facility, thanks to what Kirincich calls a perfect growing season.

He adds that the great season also came despite early delays along the St. Lawrence Seaway.

"We did start the season off late due to ice build up in the lakes, but we did have a very strong summer season and the weather has also caught us in the end," Kirincich said. "We are expecting a couple more ships, but nevertheless it has been a record year."

But he says as more cargo comes into the port, new challenges develop.

"As you do more volume, your costs also rise," Kirincich explained. "Labor costs, insurance costs and everything else, operating costs. But nevertheless, it has been a good year. I think the biggest challenge the port is going to have in the next couple years as it continues to grow is to sharpen its operating model. We have to be very competitive otherwise the suppliers, the vendors out there are going to seek other means."

Kirincich says the profit margins on cargo coming into the port is small and the port risks losing money by moving freight too often or by damaging it. Injuries are also a factor in moving freight. Still, Kirincich says he believes the port can double or even triple its volume in the coming years, amid competition from other ports.

Last year's cargo shipping season ended in late December and Kirincich says this season could last almost as long provided the weather cooperates.