Port broadens cultural, business links with Chinese sister

In an effort to help foster international trade in the greater South Kitsap community, the Port of Bremerton is looking to sign a historic sister port agreement with Yan Tai Port in China.

Yan Tai Port was selected largely because of its geographic location — directly between the sister ports of Seattle and Tacoma. Port of Bremerton officials thought the two ports would have a lot to share with each other concerning the challenges of being a small port located between two major shipping lanes.

“We expressed an interest and they took the ball and ran with it,” said Port Commissioner Bill Mahan. “I think everyone is really excited about it. It’s the first one and it takes the Port of Bremerton in a direction it’s never gone before.”

Apart from cultural exchange, the port wants to eventually set up a shipping lane between itself and Yan Tai. Mahan said there are a lot of businesses in the South Kitsap area that would be enthusiastic about having a direct link to Asia via China. Port Chief Operating Officer Tim Thompson said he already has a 360-business mailing list of those interested about establishing international trade for themselves.

“It’s worth bringing people’s attention to the market which could exist out there for their product,” Thompson said.

The port is especially excited about the prospect of creating a link for the shipping and manufacturing businesses that lease space at the port-owned Olympic View Industrial Park. When work on the industrial park’s intermodal rail yard is complete, park businesses could conceivably load shipments onto trains, which could then convey their goods directly to a deep-water port accessible to container and transport ships.

Currently, refuse is already being shipped out by rail via the park-based transfer station.

The problem is, Sinclair Inlet hardly qualifies as a deep-water port. For that reason, the port is looking to form a three-way partnership between itself, Yan Tai and Port of Grays Harbor, located just south of the Olympic Peninsula.

Grays Harbor is a deep-water port and already attracts shipping traffic. The Port of Bremerton hopes that by forming a tie with Grays Harbor, it will have the last link it needs in a chain between South Kitsap businesses and Asian customers.

“All of this falls under the port’s responsibility for economic development,” Mahan said. “Anything we can do to foster international trade builds more jobs and tax revenues for the county.”

The sister-port agreement is expected to be signed when representatives from the Port of Bremerton visit Yan Tai Port this fall.

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