Sarah Aitchison, February 12, 2015, Puget Sound Business Journal
The Port of Portland lost a big chunk of its container traffic Tuesday when South Korea-based Hanjin, one of the largest shipping lines in the world, announced it would no longer be shipping goods through the Port of Portland beginning in March.
But that’s good news for the Seattle-Tacoma Seaport Alliance.
In the memo to customers and the port, Hanjin said it would still be delivering cargo to Portland, but it would dock and unload at the Port of Seattle and then ship goods to Oregon via trucks or rail.
At the Port of Seattle, Hanjin vessels account for about 25 percent of all activity, said port spokesman Peter McGraw.
McGraw couldn’t say how much more traffic Hanjin will bring in after March when the company begins bypassing Portland. The PSBJ reached out to the operator of Terminal 46, Total Terminals International, for more detail and will update the story with that information when it’s available.
Some of the extra cargo may also move through the Port of Tacoma. Tara Mattina, spokeswoman for the Port of Tacoma, said the port told both Hanjin and the Port of Seattle that it would support the transition however it can.
“Because we are all a part of the Seaport Alliance,” she said.
The ports of Seattle and Tacoma joined forces last year to end the competition between the two ports and work together via the Seaport Alliance to drive more traffic collectively to the region.
Hanjin transports more than 100 million tons of cargo annually and has more than 150 ships in its fleet. The company has been shipping to the West Coast of the United States since 1979.
In Portland, the shipping company accounted for 78 percent of all container volume at the port last year: that’s about 1,600 containers each week.
“We apologize for any inconvenience from this change,” Hanjin wrote in the memo to customers. “However, we remain committed to providing efficient services to and from the Portland region. We appreciate your continued support in advance.”
The announcement by Hanjin sparked outcry by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which said that it was the terminal operator ICTSI’s fault that the port’s biggest customer was lost.
In 2012, ILWU workers began a dispute with ICTSI over who plugged and unplugged refrigerated containers at Terminal 6.
It also comes at a time when ports all along the West Coast are moving at a snail’s pace. The ILWU and the organization that represents terminal operators at the 29 West Coast ports, the Pacific Maritime Association, have been renegotiating an expired labor contract since May. The contract expired July 1 and the dockworkers have been working without a labor agreement since. In January, the two parties asked for help from a federal mediator. Then, the PMA shut down all vessel loading and unloading at West Coast ports over the first weekend of February.
But at the Port of Portland, the slowdowns have been more extreme. After the rest of the ILWU resumed normal operations Monday, Local 8 in Portland didn’t until Tuesday. In November, in the midst of the stalled labor negotiations with the PMA, members of the ILWU walked off the job at the Port of Portland. It’s the only local union chapter to walk off during the nearly nine months of negotiations.
The Seaport Alliance, a joint effort by the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma, recorded more than 2.5 million containers exported and imported by just international carriers in 2014. The total 2014 container count for the Seaport Alliance was more than 3.4 million.