West Coast operations resumed as normal this week as terminals began chipping away at container backlogs, all with the exception of Portland.
According to ICTSI, which operates the Pacific-Northwest container terminal, a Hanjin Shipping vessel remained unattended after the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) refused to dispatch a full work crew, a claim which the ILWU disputed.
ICTSI issued the statement: “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 labour for needed container vessel and barge operations at the terminal.”
An ILWU spokesperson said: “The statements that ICTSI made to the media about work stoppages were, as usual, self-serving and inaccurate. ICTSI arbitrarily fired entire crews of workers this week and then complained that no one was working. The fact is, ICTSI is failing to thrive in the United States because of its own managerial shortcomings, and desperately trying to blame others for its own mistakes. ICTSI’s poor decisions and rogue attitude have chased away two major customers in Portland and alienated their peers in the industry. If ICTSI spent as much time improving operations as they spend complaining to the media, our region would have a more productive container terminal by now.”
A preliminary national contract agreement was reached last week, following drawn-out negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the ILWU, which left the West Coast in a congestion crisis last month. Container terminals in Seattle, Tacoma, Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach have all resumed as normal.
Hanjin has recently announced that it was discontinuing its weekly Portland service as of March 9, taking with it 95% of Portland’s total container cargo.
Bill Wyatt, executive director of the Port of Portland, said that staff would actively seek to recruit another carrier or carriers to initiate service now that Hanjin is leaving and the cargo base in Portland is sufficient to support at least two more weekly services. Meanwhile, in order to convince other carriers to serve Portland, ILWU productivity at Terminal 6 must return immediately to historical levels, Wyatt said.
It is believed that it will take approximately two months or longer to clear the backlog and return to normal operations, which is if no further disruptions are experienced.