Wednesday October 3, 2018

Port of Oswego Upping Ante on Grain Exports

Port, Perdue Agribusiness team to make port an export center
By Lou Sorendo

    This is nothing to be taken with a grain of salt.


    All types of grain shipments are riding a robust wave this year, according to the latest St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation data.


    “Grain is, quite frankly, a new sector for us,” said William Scriber, acting executive director of the Port of Oswego Authority. “We’ve never exported this much in the last 50 years.”


    “We never reached the pinnacle of what we can actually accomplish,” said Scriber, noting that the port will be turning storage buildings over more frequently as the grain market accelerates.


    “Now we will be turning out buildings over five times a year whereas previously, we only turned them once,” he said.


    Grain tonnage was up 16.3 percent from January-August this year to 5.4 million metric tons from 4.7 million in the year-ago period on the Seaway.


    “We are part of the uptick,” Scriber said.


    He said the port was recently notified from Perdue Agribusiness to get ready to receive new grain. Soybeans are typically mature by late September and harvested in October and November.


    “They are starting to cut soybean now, so we will be ramping up in the next week and will receive over a million bushes of soybeans,” he said.


    The port also handles other grains such as wheat and corn.


    “There is a huge demand in the market right now for soybeans worldwide,” Scriber said. “Purdue Agribusiness is basically making this their major export focus in New York state.”


    Scriber said most all soybeans are being diverted to the port to ship. This wave of activity grew as a result of discussions centered earlier this year on creating a United States Department of Agriculture export center at the port.


    As a result, the port successfully applied for and received a USDA export license.


    “In the past, we had fallen under an exemption if we exported less than 15,000 metric tons in the entire year, and as a result were excluded from a lot of regulations. However, that means we could only export 15,000 metric tons, which is not a lot of grain in the overall scheme of things,” he said.


    Once licensed, the port then dedicated an in-house office that was remodeled to meet USDA standards. Representatives of the USDA go on site with testing and monitoring equipment during the export process.


    Another key step was satisfying USDA requests for accurate weight.


    “Previously, we had gone off the weight on the water ballast system on the ship, with was sort of a guesstimate,” Scriber said.


    “However, when exporting to foreign countries in large volumes, we’ve got to be exact,” he added.

    Perdue then invested about $180,000 in a new grain scale system at the port.


    “We provided the space, and now we have a computerized scale system that actually monitors every dump of soybeans from a pay-loader onto a ship,” Scriber said. “We have an accurate, minute-by-minute and second-by-second weight calculation in terms of what is going on the ship, which is required under USDA federal export regulations.


    “When they are on site, they obviously control that weight system and are able to tell exactly how many metric tons and how many pounds and bushels we are putting on the ship at any one time during the loading process.”


    Earlier this year, the port had more than 120 million bushels of soybeans on site.


    “We scheduled our first ships in August for offloading, and we have loaded two ships with more than 24,000 metric tons of soybean. We have three more scheduled for the remainder of the season, which is October and November,” said Scriber, noting the port — in conjunction with its partnership with Perdue — has exported 60,000 metric tons of soybeans this year.


    Scriber said the goal is to reach 100,000 metric tons within the next year or two.


    “If Perdue is able to export by ship directly to its markets, that reduces its cost of handling,” Scriber said. “That means they can export more soybeans and provide farmers with a better volume price.”


    “We have a direct line to the world market here,” Scriber said.


    While exporting soybeans, the port is also receiving wheat by truck or rail and corn. The port acts as a transfer facility for Sunoco’s ethanol plant in Volney.


    Perdue Agribusiness purchases corn from local farmers and stores it at the port before it is trucked to the Sunoco plant as needed.


    Locally produced wheat is trucked to the port and then loaded onto rail cars to transport to export markets in Maryland and Virginia.


    Economic impact: A report entitled “Economic Impacts of Maritime Shipping in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Region” was recently published and is available at

    Martin Associates of Lancaster, Pa., was retained to prepare the study by a consortium of U.S. and Canadian Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway System stakeholders.


    Some key findings of the study regarding all cargo and vessel active at the Port of Oswego Authority in 2017:


    — 209 jobs in New York were supported by cargo moving via the marine terminals located at the port.


    — The 106 individuals directly employed as a result of the cargo handled at the marine terminals at the port received $4.6 million in wages and salaries. These individuals, in turn, used these earnings to purchase good and services, to pay taxes, and for savings.


    — The purchase of goods and services from regional sources creates a re-spending effect known as the personal earnings multiplier effect. Using the local personal earnings multipliers, an additional $7.6 million in income and consumption were created by the port.


    — In 2017, the direct business revenue received by the firms directly dependent upon the cargo handled at the marine terminals located at the port was $19 million. These firms provide maritime services and inland transportation services for the cargo handled at the marine terminals and the vessels calling at the terminals.


    — A total of $5.8 million in state and federal taxes were generated by cargo and vessel activity at the port, with $1.8 million generated at the state level and $4.0 million generated at the federal level.

Oswego County Business Magazine
Issue 161

Issue 161
April/May 2019

Cover Story


Kristin Bullard

On The Job

What Do You Do to Retain Your Best Employees?

Success Stories

Lindsey Aggregates

My Turn

Newspaper: An Industry in Crisis


News Briefs on Local Businesses & Business People

Economic Trends

Programs that Facilitate Region’s Business Development and Growth

Last Page

Kateri Spinella