Columbia River Steamship Operators' Association asks port to reconsider use of 'Columbia River' in new name

The Port of St. Helens is likely to change its name, but exactly what that name will be remains to be determined.

Whatever name is chosen, it will likely include reference to Columbia River, or Columbia County, in an effort to be more inclusive of the port's geographical district.

Suggestions for new names have mostly been met with enthusiasm, but at least one maritime organization says it has concerns about the port's potential name change.

SPOTIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Port of St. Helens commissioners listen to comments from Kate Mickelson of the Columbia River Steamship Operators Association during a meeting Wednesday, June 13. Commissioners heard concerns over the ports efforts to change its name.The Columbia River Steamship Operators' Association drafted a letter to the port urging the agency to steer away from any name that could cause confusion among shippers within the Columbia River trade corridor.

Representatives from CRSOA addressed port commissioners and staff during a board of commissioners meeting Wednesday, June 13.

Kate Mickelson, executive director of CRSOA, said her association worried about the port using a name too similar to the Columbia River District, which includes several ports in the Pacific Northwest.

"Use of the word 'Columbia' may result in confusion and legal challenges," Mickelson said Wednesday.

When pressed further about the statement, Mickelson later clarified that CRSOA had no intention of taking legal action against the port, but simply wanted to voice concerns about the potential for goods to end up in the wrong area if vessel operators mistook the newly renamed Port of St. Helens for another port.

Hayes said the port is striving to revise its branding and marketing to better attract new prospective tenants. That can be difficult when most people don't know where the Port of St. Helens is, or what area the district encompasses, he said.

"We've been looking at the feasibility of rebranding the port," Hayes said, "to attract international domestic businesses and make us stand out. We need to be inclusive of the entire district, from Scappoose to Clatskanie."

Hayes said the current name creates confusion.

"A majority of prospective tenants think we are in Washington state," he noted.

Prior to Wednesday's discussion, a poll was created on the port's website seeking public suggestions and input on ideas for new names. Commissioners took no vote, but did direct staff to proceed with efforts to continue pursuing a new name, with further public input to be solicited.

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