Port of Portland (Oregon)

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Port of Portland
Marine Terminal 6 from Kelly Point Park - Portland, Oregon.jpg
Marine Terminal 6 - the state's only deep-draft container terminal
CountryUnited States
LocationPortland, Oregon
Main importsAutomobiles, steel, and limestone
Main exportsWheat, soda ash, potash, and hay
Logo and Motto
Port of Portland logo.jpg
Draft depth43 feet
Air draft196 feet, restricted by Astoria–Megler Bridge

The Port of Portland is the port district responsible for overseeing Portland International Airport, general aviation, and marine activities in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area in the United States. Originally established in 1891 by the 16th Oregon Legislative Assembly,[1] the current incarnation was created by the 1970 legislature, combining the original Port with the Portland Commission of Public Docks, a city agency dating from 1910.

The Port of Portland owns four marine terminals, including Oregon's only deep-draft container port, and three airports. The Port manages five industrial parks around the metropolitan area, and they own and operate the Dredge Oregon to help maintain the navigation channel on the lower Columbia and Willamette rivers.[citation needed]


19th century[edit]

In 1891, the Oregon Legislature created the Port to dredge and maintain a shipping channel from the city of Portland to the Pacific Ocean. Through the years, the Port acquired the Commission of Public Docks,[2] which operated public-use docks in Portland Harbor, and they built Portland's first airport.[citation needed]

20th century[edit]

Portland Harbor in the early 1900s

The Port of Portland's administration was embroiled in questionable business practices in the early 1930s.[3] Port authorities, including James H. Polhemus, the general manager of the port from 1923–1936, were found guilty of mismanagement, both through conflict of interest and cronyism, as well as negligence, sale of equipment at lower than assessed prices, carelessness, and preferential treatment of some private shippers.[3] Much of the blame was because of discounted rates for using the port's dry dock.[3] Companies specifically named as beneficiaries of this graft were McCormick Steamship Company and States Steamship Company.[3] The investigating committee called for the resignation of Polhemus and other staff.[3][4]

On November 20, 1933, shortly after the commission found Polhemus and his staff guilty, professional auditor Frank Akin was found shot to death.[3] His murder was never solved, leading to many conspiracy theories.[3] In mid-December, the Port commissioners voted to reject the investigating committee brief, meaning Polhemus was exonerated.[3] Polhemus stayed with the Port for another three years before becoming a vice president at Portland General Electric.[3] MacColl summarized the events in 1979, saying this:

clearly revealed the political nature of the Port of Portland Commission. It has always been embroiled in politics; it is still embroiled in politics.... The unpaid job of Port commissioner remains one of the choicest rewards that a governor can bestow upon his close friends and largest political backers. The very nature of this kind of an appointive process is fraught with potential conflicts of interest.[3]

21st century[edit]

Executive director Bill Wyatt speaks at the Port of Portland lease signing ceremony for the Portland Air National Guard Base in 2013.

From the mid 1970's until 2007, the Port itself operated Terminal 6, the sole shipping container terminal in Oregon, losing money every year but two while seeing its role as that of subsidizing the state's greater economy.[5] In an attempt to operate the port sustainably, the port signed a 25-year lease in 2010 with Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services for $4.5 million annual payments.[5]

In February 2014, a safety inspection at Terminal 6 by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration "found ICTSI Oregon to be in violation of more than a dozen worker safety codes, such as not informing employees about potential exposure to airborne lead and having workers operate machinery that lacked proper guards against flying objects." OSHA imposed fines of $18,360 against ICTSI Oregon for the violations.[6] In May 2014, a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (which represents dockworkers at all West Coast ports, including Portland) was intentionally and unlawfully slowing work, with the goal of driving business out of the Port of Portland, partly due to a dispute over having their workers setup electrical connections to refrigerated containers rather than workers belonging to a different union.[7]

On March 9, 2015, Hanjin, a South Korean-based shipping line which accounted for 78% of all container traffic to the Port of Portland, stopped serving the Port at Terminal 6 because of low productivity (including inefficient loading and unloading) and increased costs.[8] This decision came during a labor dispute between the terminal operator ICTSI and the ILWU. In 2013, when first announcing its intent to withdraw from Portland, Hanjin stated: “The actual charges have substantially increased, and when productivity doesn’t meet our norms, the cost goes up even more.” as the cause for its departure to other ports.[9]

On March 26, 2015, the second-largest shipping line, Hapag-Lloyd, said it was dropping the Portland call "in order to maintain the schedule integrity of the Med Pacific Service service."[10][11] To replace connections to Idaho, the Port began a barge service carrying pulse exports from Lewiston to Portland in December of that year.[12] Westwood Shipping Lines ceased service to Terminal 6 in May 2016.[13] In November 2017, the port announced that container service to Portland would resume in January of 2018 with Hong Kong-based Swire Shipping.[14] In February 2017, the Port of Portland and ICTSI announced they had reached a deal to end their lease agreement early, with ICTSI paying the port about $20 million.[5]

In November 2019, ICTSI Oregon won $94 million in damages in a jury trial verdict against ILWU for unlawful labor practices including "work stoppages, slowdowns, ‘safety gimmicks’ and other coercive actions," which occurred between August 2013 and March 2017 and resulted in all shippers vacating the Portland terminal.[15][16][17] In March 2020, the judge reduced the amount to $19 million.[17]


The Port of Portland has been considered a regional government with jurisdiction in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties since 1973.[2]

Nine commissioners regulate the organization; they are appointed by the Governor and approved by the State Senate. Each commissioner serves a four-year term and can be reinstated to the same post indefinitely. One requirement of commissioners is that, of the nine, two must live in each of Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties while the remaining three are free to live where they choose.[18]

Commissioners elect the Port of Portland's executive director who oversees the daily operations of the port.

Commissioners meet monthly to discuss the policies of the Port of Portland.


Marine terminals[edit]

Port of Portland from St. John's Bridge

Port of Portland's marine terminals are located outside the population center with nearby main line rail and interstate highways minimizing congestion for both rail and truck traffic. The Portland Harbor exports the second largest amount of wheat from the United States and the Columbia River system, including Portland, is third largest wheat export gateway in the world.[19] The Port is the fifth largest auto import gateway in the country, and the largest mineral bulk port on the U.S. west coast.

Marine terminals are located along the Willamette River and the Columbia River. Terminals are served by rail (Union Pacific and BNSF railroads), connecting interstates, and river barges. Around one thousand businesses and corporations are said to use the Port's marine facilities.[citation needed]

Over 17 million tons[citation needed] of cargo move through Portland each year. Twelve million tons of this cargo moves through the Port of Portland-owned and operated facilities.

Major exports include grain, soda ash, potash, automobiles, and hay; major imports are automobiles, steel, machinery, mineral bulks and other varied products.

Imports and exports at the Port of Portland total about US$15.4 billion, annually.[citation needed]

The Port's terminal facilities (T-2, T-4, and T-5 are on the Willamette River; T-6 is on the Columbia River[2]):

Industrial parks[edit]

The Port of Portland owns five industrial parks in the Portland metropolitan area:[20]


The Portland International Airport (PDX) is owned and operated by the Port of Portland. It is the 30th busiest airport in the United States. The PDX capture region serves a population of more than 3.5 million people in two states (Oregon and Washington).

The airport offers scheduled nonstop passenger service flights to over 69 domestic destinations and 11 international cities. PDX served nearly 17 million passengers in 2015, breaking the all-time passenger record of 15.9 million in 2014. The airport averages more than 230 scheduled passenger departures daily during the busiest travel seasons, and 17 different domestic and international passenger airlines serve PDX. Portland is also well-served by 10 all-air cargo carriers.

PDX serves the commercial, passenger, transport needs of the Portland Metro area, while Hillsboro Airport, also owned by the Port, serves an integral part of the region's transportation system, providing well-maintained, financially viable general aviation facilities to businesses and residents of Washington County and beyond. The Port also owns Portland-Troutdale Airport which serves as a flight training and recreational airport with an increasing emphasis on business class capability.

The first airport operated by the Port of Portland was Swan Island Municipal Airport in 1927.[citation needed] It owned Portland-Mulino Airport, a general aviation field, from 1988 until 2009, when Portland-Mulino was transferred to the Oregon Department of Aviation.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Baker, Frank C. (1891). "Special Laws". The Laws of Oregon, and the Resolutions and Memorials of the Sixteenth Regular Session of the Legislative Assembly Thereof. Salem, Oregon: State Printer: 791.
  2. ^ a b c "Port of Portland (Oregon)". The Oregon Encyclopedia.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j MacColl, E. Kimbark (1979). The Growth of a City: Power and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1915-1950. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press. ISBN 0-9603408-1-5.
  4. ^ Chandler, J. D. (2016). Murder & scandal in prohibition Portland : sex, vice & misdeeds in Mayor Baker's reign. Charleston, SC: The History Press. ISBN 978-1-4671-1953-5. OCLC 928581539.
  5. ^ a b c Njus, Elliot (February 27, 2017). "Port of Portland to split with ICTSI, seek new life for idled shipping terminal". The Oregonian. Retrieved May 24, 2017. The Port operated the terminal itself for more than 30 years, turning a profit during only two of them. It subsidized the operation as part of the public agency's mission to support the state's economy. But by 2007, Port leaders saw a private operator as the only sustainable option.
  6. ^ DuBois, Steven (April 15, 2014). "OSHA fines Port of Portland terminal operator". The Oregonian. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  7. ^ Rose, Joseph (2014-05-31). "Port of Portland longshore union intentionally slowed work at Terminal 6, NLRB judge rules". The Oregonian. Wedekind found plenty of evidence that the ILWU and Local 8 encouraged longshoremen "to unnecessarily operate cranes and drive trucks in a slow and nonproductive manner, refuse to hoist cranes in bypass mode, and refuse to move two 20-foot containers at a time on older carts, in order to force or require ICTSI and carriers who call at terminal 6 to cease doing business with the Port."
  8. ^ Wilson, Conrad (February 11, 2015). "Oregon Businesses Say Hanjin's Departure Is A Blow". OPB. Archived from the original on 2015-03-21. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  9. ^ Read, Richard (October 18, 2013). "Hanjin Shipping plans to stop calling on Port of Portland, stranding Northwest importers, exporters". The Oregonian. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  10. ^ Dupin, Chris (April 7, 2015). "Hapag-Lloyd drops Portland, Oregon call". FreightWaves. Retrieved September 10, 2021. Hapag-Lloyd said it will no longer call the port of Portland, Oregon. "We are omitting Portland in the future in our MPS service (Med Pacific Service). It was our only service which called Portland," said spokesman Rainer Horn. "The port coverage remains very good as the MPS continues to serve the ports of LA, Oakland, Tacoma and Vancouver on the North American West Coast.
  11. ^ Wilson, Conrad (April 7, 2015). "Hapag-Lloyd Confirms It's Left The Port Of Portland". OPB. Archived from the original on 2015-04-10. Retrieved December 10, 2015. In March, South Korean-based Hanjin Shipping left. The carrier complained it was taking too long to load and unload its ships because of a nearly three-year, local labor dispute between union members and their employer.
  12. ^ Harbarger, Molly (December 4, 2015). "Port of Portland subsidizes Lewiston-to-Portland container service after shipping lines pull out". The Oregonian. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  13. ^ Phillips, Erica (May 19, 2016). "Port of Portland Loses Last Container Ship Service". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
  14. ^ Wilson, Conrad (November 13, 2017). "Container Ship Service Returning To Port Of Portland In 2018". OPB. Retrieved September 10, 2021. Starting in January, Hong Kong-based Swire Shipping will start calls at the Port of Portland's Terminal 6, roughly every 35 days. The route takes goods from Portland to Australia and New Zealand, and then onto China, with a possible stop in South Korea before returning to Portland.
  15. ^ Read, Richard (2019-11-29). "How a feud over two jobs tipped the West Coast longshore union toward bankruptcy". Los Angeles Times. In 2017, ICTSI Oregon paid $20 million to exit its 25-year lease to operate the terminal, an expense included in the $135 million in damages the company sought from the union. ... The jury took just 3 1/2 hours to return the verdict and $94-million award, with the ILWU liable for 55% of the damages and Portland Local 8 the other 45%. The union has about $20 million in assets, and Local 8 has $150,000, according to federal filings. Longshore workers at a recent caucus meeting in San Francisco reportedly preferred bankruptcy to assessing members.
  16. ^ Wilson, Conrad (2019-11-05). "Jury Awards Former Portland Container Ship Operator $93 Million". Oregon Public Broadcasting. The jury found the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Local 8, the Portland chapter, engaged in unlawful labor practices at times between Aug. 14, 2013 and March 31, 2017. The jury also found those labor practices were a major factor in causing damages to ICTSI.
  17. ^ a b Powell, Meerah. "Federal Judge Reduces Lawsuit Payout To Former Portland Terminal 6 Operator". Oregon Public Broadcasting.
  18. ^ Port of Portland – Commission Information
  19. ^ Port of Portland web site
  20. ^ "Industrial Development Backgrounder" (PDF). Port of Portland. Retrieved 2019-01-31.
  21. ^ "SB 5504-A" (PDF). Oregon Legislature. June 5, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-11. Under an agreement with the Port of Portland, the agency has been operating the Mulino Airport with the understanding that the agency would assume ownership when the airport attained financial self-sufficiency. In Policy Package 100, the Subcommittee authorized the agency to assume ownership of the Mulino Airport on July 1, 2009, for $1.

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