Port of Portland to End Terminal 6 Cargo Container Handling

Lease Efforts Fell Through
Port of Portland
The port said it will stop container shipping Oct. 1. (Port of Portland)

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The Port of Portland said April 15 it will shut down its cargo container handling operation at North Portland’s Terminal 6, saying an effort to lease the site to a third-party operator had fallen through.

The terminal will continue to handle automobile imports and exports, as well as breakbulk cargo that can’t fit in shipping containers. The port said it will stop container shipping Oct. 1.

The port’s container business lost $13 million in each of the past two years, and the port expected much the same next year, said Curtis Robinhold, the port’s executive director.

The move throws hundreds of jobs into jeopardy. The container business directly creates 696 jobs, port officials said. Another estimated 870 indirect positions — truckers, shippers and freight forwarders and brokers — also rely on the local container business.

Curtis Robinhold


Some of the biggest names in Oregon business will be impacted by the shutdown, including Les Schwab, Jeld Wen, Bob’s Red Mill and Pacific Seafood.

“We know that this terminal is a critical statewide asset — it is worthy of further discussions to come up with a financially sustainable business model for container service that has significantly more state funding and investment,” wrote Keith Leavitt, the port’s chief trade and economic development officer, in an address to industry stakeholders. “For now, we have run out of financial options and must take this step.”

The port had gone to Salem, Ore., this winter seeking financial support from the Oregon Legislature. Officials requested $10 million, but the assistance package didn’t make the budget approved by lawmakers.

The port had decided that it couldn’t make its container business pencil out without an independent company to run it. Talks with a firm interested in being that third-party operator ended last week when the firm pulled out, Robinhold said.

It’s difficult for a small, inland port to compete against giants like Seattle and particularly the Port of Los Angeles-Long Beach. For example, the majority of the large athletic footwear and apparel brands based in Portland have their Asia-made products shipped to the U.S. through Los Angeles-Long Beach rather than Portland, Robinhold said.

The port is not completely locked out of the sneaker business. Nike flies thousands of tiny air pillows that provide cushioning in its shoes out of Portland International Airport to various Asian cities where the company’s shoes are made, Robinhold said.

The container operation has long been an albatross for the port. It lost money for years before the port leased the terminal and outsourced the work to ICTSI Oregon in 2010.

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ICTSI and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, whose members load and unload ships at the terminal, quickly clashed. A jury later found the longshore workers engaged in a yearslong work slowdown beginning in 2012. The dispute led shipping companies to drop the port as a destination, and it handled virtually no containers for almost five years.

The port and ICTSI negotiated an early end to the company’s 25-year lease in 2017, and the port resumed administration over terminal operations. Its container handling began to rebound in 2020 as the port recruited new carriers.

There have been no similar blow-ups since the port took over, which Robinhold attributed to the cooperation and support of the longshore union.

Hyundai, Ford and Toyota will continue to ship new cars through Terminal 6. The port’s auto shipping business remains strong, Robinhold said.

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