Port of San Diego Chairman Dan Malcolm. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The new chairman of the Port of San Diego is calling attention to the port’s $7.6 billion annual contribution and the need to sustain it in the future.

“The port is an economic force that allows us to do all the good that we do in the region,” said Dan Malcolm, citing investments over the years ranging from the airport, to the convention center to maritime industries to 22 waterfront parks. Port activities are collectively worth $7.6 billion annually for the regional economy.

“A balanced budget is not good enough,” he said. “We need strucutrual surpluses every year. We need to have money left over to invest in the community.”

Malcolm, who was sworn in as chairman of the board of commissioners in January, spoke with Times of San Diego in a wide-ranging interview about his vision for 2015.

He said one of the port’s major strengths is its economic diversity, with hotels, restaurants and parks sharing the waterfront with Navy installations and the West Coast’s last major shipyard.

“What you may think are incompatible land uses aren’t really incompatible,” Malcolm said. “That is what makes the interesting diversity of the Port of San Diego. That diversity is our strength.”

The General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard is a crucial part of the mix, he said, noting that when shipyards closed in the San Francisco Bay Area, its maritime industry was much reduced.

“The shipyards are gone up there. When the shipyards went the whole thing when down like dominoes,” he said.

Among the other ideas and issues discussed by Malcolm were:

  • The port is working on a plan to increase shipments by a factor of five at the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal.
  • He expects a new port CEO to be hired my mid year. A search is underway following the ouster of Wayne Darbea last July.
  • Cruise business is coming back to San Diego as the national economy improves. There were 70 port calls last year, growing to 81 this year. A home-port call is worth $2 million to the local economy.
  • The recent work slowdown at West Coast posts didn’t impact San Diego because it isn’t a containerized port.
  • Redevelopment of the Chula Vista waterfront is the largest project of its type in California.
  • The port is becoming more environmentally friendly by allowing ships to plug in to shore power and by requiring fuel-efficient trucks.

Malcolm is a former city councilman from Imperial Beach and represents that city on the port board, but he said commissioners are focused on the entire region.

“The port is the port of all 5 cities,” he said. “We are here to enhance but maintain the special character of each city.”

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.