Thursday, February 9, 2012

Longview Grain Ship Docks Without Incident

Workers from the International Longshore & Warehouse Union helped dock the first ship to ever call at the new EGT grain terminal at the Port of Longview this week, a ship whose arrival they’d originally planned to picket.

The arrival of the grain ship Full Sources, which occurred without incident around mid-day on Feb. 7, came just over two weeks after the settlement a prolonged labor dispute that led to dozens of arrests and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines last summer.

“EGT is open for business,” company CEO Larry Clarke said.

The Full Sources, which is owned by EGT partner Pan Ocean STX, is scheduled to take 57,000 tons of wheat to South Korea.

For weeks, the union members had planned to picket the 740-foot merchant ship’s arrival at the new Berth 9 terminal, but that all changed last week after ILWU Local 21 was able to hammer out a labor agreement with the terminal operator.

The dispute stemmed from the company using the services of a union other than the ILWU at Berth 9, which is a $200 million joint venture between Bunge Ltd., ITOCHU International and STX Pan Ocean.

Local 21 had contended that its contract with the Port of Longview required that the 25 to 35 jobs inside the terminal go to ILWU labor. The company, however, said its lease agreement with the port does not specify ILWU workers, and members of Operating Engineers Local 701 had been working at the terminal.

As part of the conflict, ILWU members and supporters picketed the facility last summer. During some protests, picketers stormed the facility, cut brake lines on rail cars and dumped grain from the cars, among other things, which led to dozens of arrests on trespassing and disorderly conduct charges.

A federal trial on the dispute had been scheduled for March, but was suspended after the office of Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire announced on Jan. 23 that it had negotiated an agreement between the two sides.

Berth 9 is the first export grain terminal built in the United States in more than 25 years. EGT spokesman Matthew Beck said the company expects to load 150 to 200 ships annually bound for Asia. The new grain terminal could quadruple the tonnage of cargo that passes through Longview, according to port officials.