Ports bustling, but Hanjin pullout looms large

Port of Portland among 28 West Coast ports covered in labor deal

A shipment moves at the Port of Portland, Feb. 3, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
A shipment moves at the Port of Portland, Feb. 3, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Nearly all West Coast seaports began the week with dockworkers hustling to load and unload cargo ships that were held up amid a months-long labor-management dispute.

The exception Monday was the Port of Oakland, where problems persisted three days after negotiators for the dockworkers’ union and for employers reached a new contract covering all 29 West Coast ports.

Port of Oakland spokesman Mike Zampa said nine ships are at berth, ready for cranes to move cargo, but only one ship was being worked due to a temporary shortage of experienced crane operators.

At other West Coast ports, work was mostly back to normal.

Terminal 6 at the Port of Portland, Sept. 2, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Terminal 6 at the Port of Portland, Sept. 2, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

However, Elvis J. Ganda, the CEO of the International Container Terminal Services Incorporated, said there is still a productivity problem at Terminal 6 in Portland.

In a statement, Ganda said, “…we are currently not seeing a good faith effort by ILWU to bring productivity at Terminal 6 to acceptable levels. Additionally, the ILWU is failing to provide sufficient labor for needed container vessel and barge operations at the terminal. For example, the PMA today found that the ILWU engaged in an illegal work stoppage by failing to provide labor on Sunday, February 22, 2015, for the Hanjin Copenhagen  ICTSI Oregon is disappointed that the ILWU is continuing to purposely disrupt Terminal 6 operations and impact business in the Portland region.”

About 700 Oregon businesses, many shipping agricultural products like peas, frozen french fries, lentils and onions, depend on the port to get their products across the Pacific Ocean to market in Asia.

The mountains of containers that piled up during the work slowdown are starting to go out, but they may not all get out before Hanjin permanently pulls its operation from Portland.

Port of Portland leaders said the South Korea-based shipping company is steaming out of here for economic reasons.

If they really do leave — as they said after March 9 — hundreds of Oregon companies would have to truck containers of their product to Tacoma or Seattle. That would cost an extra $1000 per container and seriously damage their fight to compete overseas.

Officials said Hanjin’s decision is commercial, not political — and the likelihood another shipper will come in is not great.

The job of restoring the free flow of international trade will take at least two months at the ports that handle roughly one-quarter of U.S. international trade.

KOIN 6 News reporter Lisa Balick contributed to this report.

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