If it feels like you’re seeing a million more trucks during your commute and around-the-clock traffic jams, it’s not your imagination fooling you. While we may be exaggerating, the reality is that you are experiencing the ripple effects of a big change in the transportation of goods throughout the Pacific Northwest. The Port of Portland is feeling a little lighter these days having lost its largest international shipping company. Hanjin, a South Korea-based carrier, finally quit the Port of Portland in February 2015 after claiming it would do so two years ago.

 

Port Dockworkers Leave Bad Taste

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Hanjin has been with the Port of Portland since 1993, but due to disruptive labor disputes causing massive delays in productivity, the company decided shipping to Portland was too expensive. It briefly stopped servicing Portland back in 2012 due to a labor dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and ICTSI Oregon Inc., the management company for Terminal 6 responsible for contracting workers to remove containers from ships. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is this same conflict that led them to depart for good, along with two other major shipping companies.

For years, longshore union workers with ILWU have been in conflict with ICTSI Oregon complaining that the management model is “authoritarian and intimidation-based,” which they claim led to low worker morale. Governor John Kitzhaber attempted to break a deal with the union workers by giving them jobs they had wanted that were originally carried out by another group, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. This led to a dispute between those two unions, during which millions of dollars’ worth of cargo backed up.

As one Hanjin shipping vessel waited to be unloaded, another was en route to the port to be loaded while dockworkers did not show up to unload the first. The ILWU was found guilty of illegally causing intentional slowdowns by the Oregon Federal Court. These slowdowns dampened productivity as workers took days to unload cargo from just one ship. Hanjin had had enough. On February 8, 2015 the port announced it would leave for good, taking 78% of the business at Terminal 6 with it.

The company’s ships moved 1,600 containers a week, carrying much of Oregon’s agricultural exports to Asia and bringing apparel for Northwest-based companies like Nike and Columbia Sportswear. According to the Portland Business Journal, these local businesses generated $83 million a year in revenue and $33 million in annual wages.

The Port of Portland had only 3 container carriers delivering import and export cargo from Terminal 6. German-based carrier Hapag-Lloyd, responsible for 25% of Terminal 6’s business, followed suit in March of last year. Westwood Shipping Lines, the last of the carriers, left in May 2016.

 

Effects on Oregonians

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To continue exporting and importing goods, Oregon-based farmers and businesses now need to pay more money to send their goods on trucks north to ports in Seattle and Tacoma. Some may need to head south to ports in California. These extra shipping costs can run $400-$800 per container, a premium that may eventually trickle down to consumers.

Straw exporters who were sending 1,300 containers monthly via Terminal 6 to South Korea are now looking to hire 3-4 times as many trucks to transport the same amount of straw to Tacoma. Just this single component of the agricultural industry can place 50 more trucks a day on I-5 or 205 headed north. In all, approximately 2,000 more trucks are traveling on major freeways, according to Susie Lahsene, the Port of Portland’s senior manager of planning and policy. Many of these trucks pass through the Interstate Bridge, causing traffic delays.

Out of the 130,000 vehicles that cross the Interstate Bridge a day, 2,000 doesn’t seem like much; however, considering the size of these trucks that figure can definitely put a damper in your commute. Just one fully-loaded 18-wheel carrier takes up as much lane space as 6 SUVs, making it seem like there are much more than an extra 2,000 trucks on I-5.

With more trucks on the roads come more traffic accidents involving trucks. Trucking accidents are among the most dangerous as any impact of an 18-wheeler truck can be disastrous. Such a truck weighs approximately 80,000 pounds on average. If you’ve been involved in a trucking accident in Portland, Richard Rizk is the local accident attorney you need. Having worked on both sides of the insurance fence, he can help you reach a maximum settlement. Contact Rizklaw at (503)245-5677 or email Rich at rich@rizklaw.com.