Container service to return to Port of Portland
In a surprise announcement, the Port of Portland announced Tuesday that South Korea-based container carrier SM Line would be bringing weekly container shipping service back to Portland.
Governor Kate Brown is taking credit for the moves. She recently made a trade mission trip to South Korea, where the Governor and Port representatives met with SM Line executives.
"We are thrilled to welcome SM Line and give regional shippers more options and better connect Oregon businesses to global markets," said Curtis Robinhold, executive director at the Port of Portland. "This service will help reduce the number of trucks on the road and decrease regional environmental impacts of freight movement."
SM Line launched in 2017 and continues to expand its presence on the Asia-North America trade route to meet growing demand. The Port of Portland's Terminal 6 will be added to SM Line's existing rotation to the Pacific Northwest, which includes stops in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Seattle.
"We look forward to this new service in Portland, which will expand our trans-Pacific service coverage and better connect SM Line with customers in the region," said Kee Hoon Park, SM Line CEO.
The Port had all but given up on container traffic at Terminal 6 after the departure of Hanjin and Hapag-Lloyd in March 2015, which cost the Port of Portland 99% of its container service in one month.
International Containers and Terminal Services, Inc. had a 25-year lease, which it bought itself out in 2017 out of frustration with the container slow down by Portland's longshoremen.
Bill Wyatt, who was Port Director for 17 years until 2017, said at the time that the loss of container traffic was in the cards because the industry is moving toward megaships that can squeeze through the newly widened Panama Canal, but would never come to Portland.
Portland's channel is just too shallow (43 feet) and crossing the Columbia River bar is already enough of a deterrent before the two bridges and the 107-mile trip to Portland.
Wyatt said the Port was working to find another operator because the Port is determined not to assume the risk of running a loading and unloading operation.
The idea was to give more space at Terminal 6 over to steel. Steel bars are imported to Evraz, which makes them into pipes for the natural gas industry. More automotive work was also mooted, with space used for storing and customizing cars.
The weekly service will start from the port of Ningbo in China on Dec. 22, 2019, using six 4,300-4,500 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent) vessels, and the full port rotation will be Yantian, Ningbo, Shanghai, Pusan, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Pusan, Kwangyang, and Yantian. The first journey is expected to arrive in Portland in January 2020.
Portland was selected as an additional stop due to Terminal 6's proximity to Oregon customers, lack of congestion, and access to on-site rail connections that allow products to be quickly transported beyond Portland.
Marine Terminals at the Port of Portland
•Terminal 2 is the oldest and smallest and does not have a permanent tenant.
• Terminal 4 has three tenants: Toyota, Kinder Morgan (soda ash) and a bulk liquid importer of molasses.
• Terminal 5 has long-term tenant Canpotex, which has a giant wooden structure from which potash arrives by train and leaves by ship, and another exporting grains (wheat, corns and soy beans).
• Terminal 6 was long associated with containers (the large metal boxes carried by planes, trains and trucks) but at each end there is a large automobile customer. Honda is at the east end and Auto Warehouse at the west, which converts Fords for the Chinese and South Korean markets.
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