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Shipping lines expand service to Port of Portland's Terminal 6

The world's second-largest shipping line announced it will start making weekly stops at the terminal.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The number of cargo ships serving Portland is ramping up. 

This month, the world's second-largest shipping line, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), announced it will bring its service to the Port of Portland's Terminal 6. Another major shipping company, SM Line, is expanding its service through the port. 

On Thursday, the cargo ship SM Tianjin floated next to the dock at Terminal 6 as dozens of workers moved containers on and off the ship. Containers being loaded were headed to China and those being unloaded were going to Portland-area companies and beyond.

On average, one of these ships carries 650 containers at a time. SM Tianjin was carrying cargo for local stores including Fred Meyer, Dollar Tree and Les Schwab, the Port of Portland said. 

Right now, SM Tianjin is one of six ships making regular stops in Portland each month. Port of Portland officials are thrilled.

“It’s a great deal. It’s a fantastic benefit to the local businesses — farmers and growers in the region and also consumers. It’s a lot busier as you can see than it has been in the past and we’re very excited about it,” said Dan Pippenger, the chief operating officer for the Port of Portland. 

On Sept. 7, MSC announced it would be start making weekly stops at Terminal 6. SM Line will expand its service by sending two additional vessels to the terminal each month. 

SM Line returned to Terminal 6 in January 2020. It now plans to expand its service in Portland by sending two additional vessels to the terminal each month.

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It is a big change from 2016 when shippers stopped calling on Portland and the docks here went quiet.

The company managing the docks at the time sued the longshore union over slowdowns and work stoppages. A jury awarded the company $96 million in damages. A federal judge later lowered the amount to $19 million.

The union has not responded to KGW's request for an interview. 

Regardless, it appears that relations, at least with the port are better now.

“I have to tell you I was the marine operations director back when we leased the container terminal and things didn’t go so well. But I can’t give enough credit to the longshoremen for the partnership and bringing the terminal back,” Pippenger said.

Aside from cargo delivery and pickups, cargo ships are using Terminal 6 for purposes related to the global backup in the shipping supply chain.

Credit: Pat Dooris KGWTV

A shortage of shipping containers is expected to last through the end of the year.

Things are so tight, some ships come just to load empty cargo containers and take them to China where they will be filled with product and sent back again over the ocean.

The Wall Street Journal reports containers are in short supply for a number of reasons. Some are stuck on ships waiting to unload at jammed ports like in Long Beach, California. Others are waiting for trucks and drivers to move them to warehouses where they will be unloaded. 

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Have a comment or story idea for reporter Pat Dooris? Email him at pdooris@kgw.com

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