Container ships returning to Port of Portland

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PORTLAND — Container ships are returning to the Port of Portland in 2018, though not frequently.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports Hong Kong-based Swire Shipping will visit Terminal 6 about once every five weeks starting in January. The route will take goods from Oregon to Australia and New Zealand, and then China.

Gov. Kate Brown finalized the deal during her visit to Asia last month.

Major shipping companies made weekly visits to Portland before halting service in 2015. The stoppage forced businesses that used the terminal for international shipping to send their goods to out-of-state ports via truck or rail.

The disruption was largely blamed on productivity problems that stemmed from a labor dispute between the longshoremen’s union and ICTSI-Oregon, the terminal operator at the time. Though ICTSI is a major global ports operator, Portland represented its first venture in the United States, and management quickly clashed with American labor.

The Port of Portland ended its contract with ICTSI earlier this year, resolving that issue. Carriers, however, still must be convinced to return to the port that’s less convenient to access than others on the West Coast.

The governor’s office has chipped in $250,000 from the state’s strategic reserve fund. It’ll help pay for bar pilots who navigate vessels up the Columbia River. Port of Portland CEO Curtis Robinhold said it takes two bar pilots and costs carriers $20,000 more to visit Portland than other ports.

“This is really walking before you can run,” Robinhold told OPB. “What we’re really trying to do is show we can get T6 working again.”