Portland To Lose Largest Shipper Due To West Coast Port Problems

Shipping giant Hanjin said the company can't afford the expense of operating in Portland, one of 29 ports on the U.S. West Coast locked in an ugly labor dispute.

A South Korean company responsible for the vast majority of shipping into the port of Portland, Oregon will leave the city this spring as problems continue to plague docks on the West Coast.

Hanjin Shipping Company, which has operated in the port for more than 20 years and accounts for 78 of its business – or about $83 million annually – officially withdrew on Tuesday, and expects its final day of service to the city to be March 9.

Hanjin officials indicated the company "can’t afford the expense of operating" in Portland, one of 29 ports on the West Coast locked in a protracted, often ugly labor dispute.

Dockworkers at those sites have been working without a contract since their last deal with the Pacific Maritime Association expired last summer. The contract talks have exacerbated existing capacity problems at many of those ports, and workers and management have traded accusations about responsibility for near-gridlock at several of the nation's largest ports – and most important ties to Asian markets.

In Portland, for example, Hanjin's most recent ship sat idle as longshoremen stopped working in protest of management and the PMA shut down loading and unloading over the weekend. A complete port shutdown, meanwhile, could be looming.

Hanjin's clash with the Portland port, however, predates the current labor troubles, having electing to stay last year only after first announcing its intention to depart in 2013. The local dockworkers union has clashed with Philippines-based ICTSI, which operates the port's Terminal 6, since 2012.

A letter from Hanjin to its shipping partners indicated the Portland market would be served by rail or truck from the Port of Seattle.

Port officials, meanwhile, warned of the consequences for the regional economy, arguing 657 jobs and $33 million in annual wages directly depend on Hanjin's service, while more than 900 businesses – including agriculture exporters and sporting goods giants Nike and Columbia – rely on its ships.