Weekly container shipping returns to Port of Portland’s Terminal 6

Date: Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Source: The Oregonian

A South Korean shipping line plans to begin serving the Port of Portland in January, marking a resumption of weekly container service at the port for the first time in nearly four years.

SM Line’s vessels will serve two other Northwest ports as well, connecting them to ports in China and South Korea. The new service will handle less than a quarter the number of the containers that used to pass through the port but officials said they hope activity will build over time.

“This is great news for Oregon, which will create more jobs for Oregonians and more opportunities for local companies to grow as they market Oregon products overseas,” Gov. Kate Brown said in a written statement. She recently returned from a trade mission to South Korea and will contribute $500,000 from the governor’s Strategic Reserve Fund to subsidize the new service.

Hanjin Shipping served Portland’s Terminal 6 until 2015, when a dispute between port operator ICTSI and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union derailed the relationship. Port managers said longshoremen deliberately slowed work at Terminal 6.

The union disputed that accusation but a federal jury awarded ICTSI $93.6 million this month in a civil suit the port operator brought against the longshoremen. That judgment is on hold while a federal judge considers whether to reduce the jury award.

Other container services dropped Portland, too, and the port lost weekly container service in May 2016.

After ICTSI left Portland, the port took over terminal management and said Tuesday it “has a strong working relationship with” the union. The port said it believes it has more ability to oversee any labor disputes that arise than the private terminal operator did.

Hanjin had been shipping 1,600 containers weekly, transporting apparel for Nike, Columbia Sportswear and others and sending Northwest agricultural products to Asia. After the container shipping stopped, exporters had to send their products by rail to ports in Seattle or Tacoma.

Limited container shipping resumed in 2017, when a company called Swire Shipping briefly began stopping in Portland every 35 days to load Western Star trucks Daimler manufacturers in Portland and an assortment of other containerized cargo for export. Swire soon switched to general cargo, then stopped serving Terminal 6 earlier this year.

Initially, the port said it expects SM Line will handle “a few hundred containers a week." The port said it will offer marketing support in hopes of attracting more volume.

 

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