Coos Bay: A Port Turned Intermodal Logistics Hub

Brand Story – With its rail line, channel expansion plans and space to grow, the Port has its sights set on diversification.

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 To the general public, ports and ships go together like airports and airplanes. While that perception is not necessarily wrong, at the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay, maritime activity bookends a much longer transportation journey, one in which every leg of the supply chain matters.
“Our design was never to be the biggest port; it was to be the best port,” says John Burns, CEO, Port of Coos Bay. “We want to help our stakeholders move their goods as rapidly as possible with as little interference and infringement as possible.”

So, when the local community approached the port about acquiring the Coos Bay Rail Line roughly 10 years ago, it accepted, recognizing its responsibility to develop the region’s and state’s economies. Since then, the port has injected roughly $100 million into the rail line, including upgrades to its nine tunnels, major bridge improvements, continuous track work and growing the line from zero rail cars in 2010 to 7,000 railcars today.

Until that point, the lack of a rail line — whose closure was triggered by the timber industry’s decline — meant that all goods and materials moving through southwest Oregon  were moving by truck. Access to freight rail service is critical for Oregon industry, providing a safe, reliable, and cost effective transportation option.


“The issue of land and water congestion is experienced all along the West Coast. Each railcar takes 3.5 trucks off the road and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 75%,” says Margaret Barber, Director of External Affairs, Port of Coos Bay. “Congestion at large ports has caused ships to wait in line to berth, increasing costs and emitting greenhouse gases. The Port of Coos Bay offers rail and ocean transport without the congestion issues that create bottlenecks in our urban areas. At the Port of Coos Bay, we are efficient and reliable.”

The faster that goods move in and out of U.S. gateways, the more economical the process, resulting in increased jobs and opportunities.

Thanks to the harbor’s geography, ships can get from dock to open ocean in an hour. Without backed up shipping channels and long transit times, cargo reaches its end destination more quickly. Additionally, unlike nearby ports situated in dense urban areas, Coos Bay has space to grow to meet the regulatory and technology needs of tomorrow.

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“We have been working diligently to diversify our harbor and what we do,” Burns notes. “That’s important for a state that’s continuously evolving, whether it’s apparel, athletic shoes, craft beer and wine, agriculture. We’re setting ourselves up to best serve our customers and Oregon.”

As part of that promise, the team is planning to deepen and widen its shipping channels to 45ft and 450ft, respectively.
Together with its rail line and pursuit of a new multi-use facility, that expansion gives a glimpse into how a one-product port is growing into a flexible, intermodal logistics hub — which encompasses its maritime operations, railroad and Charleston Marina Complex (ice plant, shipyard, 500 vessel slips, 100-space RV ramp, accommodations, etc.).

The Port of Coos Bay, a driving force behind Oregon’s economy and U.S. trade, will continue to pursue diversification as it collaborates with its array of customers to best serve their needs. But there’s a simpler message that Burns wants to get across, too: “Coos Bay also happens to be a really beautiful place. It’s where the forests meet.



Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues.  The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.