Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Hanjin to Continue Calling at Portland

By Mark Edward Nero

Hanjin Shipping, which announced last fall that it would end its direct-call service to Port of Portland in 2014, reversed course March 10 and said that it would continue its weekly transpacific vessel call at the port’s Terminal 6.

“Hanjin has been a valued customer of the port for 20 years, and they have an important shipping franchise in this market,” Port of Portland Chief Commercial Officer Sam Ruda said. “We will continue to work closely with all stakeholders to ensure that the case remains for Hanjin and all carriers to keep cargo moving through Portland’s Terminal 6.”

In October 2013, Hanjin officials told the port and terminal operator ICTSI Oregon that low productivity and escalating costs needed to be addressed at the container terminal in order for the company to remain in the local market.

Even with the decision to stay, the port and shipping company have agreed that operational conditions and labor productivity need to stabilize and improve for container services calling Terminal 6 to be successful.

According to Hanjin’s notification to the port, the company will review operational performance on a quarterly basis.

Hanjin is the largest container carrier calling at Terminal 6; it represents nearly 80 percent of container throughput at the terminal, averaging about 1,600 containers per week.

Hanjin has shipping contracts with many of the area’s largest shippers, and also provides significant vessel capacity servicing Oregon and regional agricultural shippers.

The port has a 25-year lease with ICTSI Oregon, Inc. for operation of the container terminal, where Hapag-Lloyd, Hamburg Süd and Westwood Shipping also provide container service for imports and exports.

Hanjin’s announcement to stay comes as Terminal 6 is still grappling with labor issues that have led to reduced productivity. The issues revolve around a years-long battle between ICTSI and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union over terminal work assignments and productivity.

Just last week, longshore workers twice walked off the job, once to honor another picket line and once in response to a verbal altercation between three longshoremen and an ICTSI manager.

However, Ruda said that Hanjin’s decision is indicative that the shipper is committed to partnering with the port.

“With this decision, we are hopeful that all parties involved will work together to continue improving the competitiveness and reputation of the container terminal,” he said.