Port Commission works to revise harbor rates, rules
The Port of Nome Commission met in a work session Dec. 19 to continue the annual tweaking of the port tariff to reflect procedures and cost recoveries.
The panel is going over the document bit by bit with the intent to determine whether user costs need to be applied to certain categories of uses or an across-the-board increase, according to Lucas Stotts, harbormaster.
In 2013, across-the-board rates went up by 10 percent, in 2014 by 5 percent and in 2015 by 5 percent. There have been no rate hikes since, but costs of operation have continued to rise, including insurance and labor costs, Stotts added. He wanted to look at the Consumer Price Index concept, Commissioner Derek McLarty said. Commissioner Charlie Lean suggested the Commission and administration look at traffic patterns.
“We should think about if we are happy with traffic patterns. If we raise rates selectively it directs behavior,” Lean suggested. “If we want them to use one dock, we could make another dock more expensive.”
McLarty suggested the pricing structure consider how much revenue a user class or port facility produced in relation to price hikes.
There was a feeling among commissioners that the cruise boat sector should be paying more, perhaps with a passenger fee of, say, $2 or more a head to disembark. The ship agent would collect the fees and transfer them to the City.
What services were passengers getting or their money, McLarty asked.
“They are getting safe access to land,” Joy Baker, port director, said. “That is infrastructure that warrants service and maintenance”.
The port does not provide public restrooms or showers.
Later in the session, Lean observed that it was easier for people to walk down a dock than jump on a bobbing lighter to travel from ship to shore.
The Commission discussed a definition of “home-ported” vessels, with an emphasis on expanding inclusiveness to expand revenue.
“We want to see those who live here or do their work here. The goal is to bring in commerce,” Lean observed. “We want the City to recoup costs as much as we can and encourage people to do this.”
However, people who do not have their charges cleared and accounts up to date will not receive discounted rates.
The Commission agreed to maintain the rule against vessels remaining in the water and freezing in, with the exception of jack-up rigs. Any rig freezing in has to be a jack-up rig, considered on a case-by-case basis for which the operator presents a plan to the port administration for a once over and transfer to the Commission for consideration.
Commissioners Lean, McLarty, Gay Sheffield and Russell Rowe attended the meeting. Harbormaster Stotts attended the meeting. Baker, port director, attended by telephone.
The group in attendance agreed to hold off on hard rate decisions without the whole commission present. Commissioners Scot Henderson, Shane Smithhisler and Jim West Jr. did not attend.
The Commission intends to get the new tariff on the docks by March 1, earlier than in other seasons.
Commissioners highlighted Dept. of Natural Resources state offshore mining lease sale to commence by sealed bid on Jan. 1. The sale features leftovers including paper deficiency and unpaid leases from the 2008 sale. The 10 tracts range in size from 34 acres to 375 acres. Some are within city limits. The sale closes at 5 p.m. on Feb. 28.
From the audience, Ken Hughes reported that a survey estimates there remains one million ounces of gold remaining offshore Nome, perhaps more beach lines to be mined with a possible worth of $10 billion.