The Port of Portland’s container terminal might have lost the rest of its business. The second-largest carrier to Terminal 6 has stopped scheduling trips to Portland.
“Although Hapag-Lloyd has not made an official announcement or given notification that it will no longer be calling on Terminal 6, its current vessel schedule does not show any such calls for the near future,” Elvis Ganda, CEO of port operator ICTSI Oregon, said Friday after an inquiry from The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Ganda said shippers should contact Hapag-Lloyd directly for more information.
If Hapag-Lloyd is indeed gone, the blow will be devastating to small and midsized companies who trade with Europe. The German carrier is Portland’s direct connection to those customers.
Hanjin Shipping Co. pulled out of Portland in February, taking nearly 80 percent of the Port of Portland’s container business with it. About nine months of slow dock work during West Coast-wide contract negotiations between port operators and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union brought West Coast ports to a near standstill. Even as the union announced Friday that its members plan to ratify a new contract, and the backlog of ships at other ports is expected to clear out soon, Portland’s labor dispute continues.
ICTSI Oregon and the dock workers have fought for years, with the longshoremen saying the port operator is mismanaging the port, and Ganda saying the workers are intentionally sabotaging the company to drive it out of business.
The antagonism on the docks hurts more than shipping lines’ bottom lines. Port and agriculture industry officials said earlier this week that they worry other ports will become more expensive to ship out of, without Portland competing for the same business. Oregon companies who relied on Hanjin’s service between Oregon and Asian countries scrambled to send their containers by truck and rail north to the Puget Sound ports and south to California.
The only remaining shipping line is Westwood, which only sends a few vessels in and out of the Port of Portland.
Hapag-Lloyd was only about 20 percent of Portland’s container business, but more than 90 percent of the Port of Lewiston’s, upriver in Idaho.
“Hapag-Lloyd has been a wonderful supporter of peas and lentils in our region for decades, so it would be a huge blow to our area if Hapag-Lloyd were to discontinue Portland,” General Manager David Doeringsfeld said.
Idaho pea and lentil farmers ship their product down the Columbia Snake River channel to the Port of Portland on barges throughout the year, except for the yearly lock maintenance.
The maintenance started in March and concludes in a few days, opening the way for what is usually a glut of containers that stacked up throughout the monthlong closure. This year, there will be none.
Doeringsfeld said Hapag-Lloyd has not released any containers — those 20-feet-long multicolored metal boxes you see on boats, trains and trucks — to farmers to fill up and send to Portland.
The only way to get a container is if you plan to truck your product to Seattle or Tacoma ports to be exported through the Puget Sound.
Shippers in Oregon have said they were told by Hapag-Lloyd representatives not to book any shipments in and out of the Port of Portland. Now, it seems, the company is poised to stop calling completely.
— Molly Harbarger