Shipping returns to Portland’s Terminal 6


South Korea-based container carrier SM Line will be begin weekly container shipping service between Portland and China and South Korea starting January 2020, the Port of Portland announced Nov. 19.

Located on the Columbia River on the far northern tip of North Portland, Terminal 6 is set up with cranes to load and unload container ships. But it’s been largely idle since 2015, when Hanjin Shipping and Hapag Lloyd America ended regular service.

A slowdown by members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) was blamed for the pullout, but other factors increasingly make container shipping to Portland a challenge: To make it to Portland, ocean-going ships must get through a difficult crossing at the mouth of the Columbia River and then travel 107 miles through a shipping channel that’s just 43 feet deep.

The SM Lines ships that will stop in Portland can carry the equivalent of 4,500 20-foot containers, much smaller than the ultra-large vessels that are coming to be the standard for container shipping. The new larger ships carry the equivalent of 10,000, 15,000 or more 20-foot containers, but they require a shipping channel that’s just under 50 feet deep.

To lure SM Lines, Oregon Governor Kate Brown offered a public subsidy of $500,000 from the lottery-funded Strategic Reserve Fund, the Oregonian reported. It’s not the first time the fund has been tapped for shipping: In 2017, Swire Shipping was given a $250,000 incentive to begin serving the terminal once every 35 days, but it ended service earlier this year.


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