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Terminal 6 a Potentially Terminal Problem

by Jim Redden
Portland Tribune, March 12, 2015

. . . the port lost millions of dollars a year when it operated the port for most of its existence.

 (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) The Port of Portland's Terminal 6 is shown Friday, June 29, 2012, in Portland, Ore. Port of Portland officials believe they cannot replace the embattled operator at Terminal 6 -- even though keeping International Carrier Terminal Services Inc. Oregon risks further labor-management friction.

In fact, port Executive Director Bill Wyatt says Terminal 6 will simply be down if ICTSI Oregon leaves.

"We can't afford to operate it," Wyatt says of the loading and unloading facilities at Oregon's only deep water port.

According to Wyatt, the port lost millions of dollars a year when it operated the port for most of its existence. When the port sought a private operator several years ago, ICTSI Oregon was the only company willing to do so.

The port now has a long-term contract with ICTSI Oregon that cannot be broken except for cause. Under the contract, ICTSI Oregon is required to pay the port $4.5 million a year, regardless of the volume of shipments through the terminal.

Years of disputes between ICTSI Oregon and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union local have taken their toll, however. Hanjin Shipping, the largest shipping line serving the terminal, pulled out earlier this month, reducing business there by around 80 percent. Wyatt says the bad publicity generated by the fights will effectively discourage any other operator from taking over Terminal 6.

"There's no there there," Wyatt says of the possibility of replacing ICTSI Oregon.

At the same time, Wyatt says the tentative labor agreement recently reached by the Portland Maritime Association and the local's parent union could help ease tensions at Terminal 6. The PMA represents operators in all 29 West Coast ports, including ICTSI Oregon. According to Wyatt, the agreement it reached with the ILWU includes provisions for quickly resolving the kinds of grievances that have led to work slowdowns in Portland in recent years.

Until the labor-management dispute is resolved, the port has no hope of recruiting another large shipping line to replace Hanjin, Wyatt says. Even then, the process could take years, he adds.

Despite the tentative contract agreement, the public war of words has continued between ICTSI Oregon and the ILWU local. Each has blamed the other for problems leading up to losing Hanjin. And both say the behavior of the other party will make it hard to find a replacement shipper.

"This will be a difficult task, given that the situation at Terminal 6 goes much deeper and has been going on much longer than the current labor dispute at other West Coast ports. We are hopeful, however, that the ILWU will cease its work stoppages and slowdowns and work with us in a cooperative venture to provide a thriving and productive container terminal for the good of the Columbia River region. We are certainly willing to work with the ILWU to that important end," ICTSI Oregon CEO Elvis Ganda said in a statement after Hanjin announced it was leaving Portland.

For its part, the ILWU has continued to criticize ICTSI Oregon as an anti-labor Phillippines-based interloper using the Port of Portland to break into the potentially lucrative American market.

"It's a sad day when local port management thinks the best they can do is to have the Portland's terminal run by a company that's based in the Philippines and unwilling to respect U.S. working standards. It's port management's job to provide a gateway for cargo for our region, and it would be extremely irresponsible for them to throw in the towel based on its tenant's failure to thrive. The port is a public resource, and it's up to port management to step up and find a way to fix its failed privatization experiment with ICTSI," ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said last week.

Related Pages:
Port of Portland, Longshore Union Still Trading Blame, Barbs as Rest of West Goes Back to Work by Molly Harbarger, The Oregonian, 2/24/15

Jim Redden
Terminal 6 a Potentially Terminal Problem
Portland Tribune, March 12, 2015

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