Union longshore workers docked the merchant vessel Full Sources without incident at the EGT grain terminal Tuesday, marking the first time that union dockworkers have worked at the terminal.
About two dozen people, mostly longshoremen and port employees, watched the ship sail into the Port of Longview's new Berth 9, escorted by Coast Guard cutters and police boats. The freighter, the first ship ever to call at the new $200 million terminal, will take 57,000 tons of Washington soft wheat to South Korea.
"It's ... a relief for the community. We don't have to worry about more chaos and mayhem. It's going to bring money into the community. It brings more jobs into our hall," Byron Jacobs, secretary/treasurer for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21, said while watching the ship dock at about 12:30 p.m.
According to Jacobs, four ILWU workers were on the dock tying down the ship, while seven more were working inside the terminal. EGT is hiring from a pre-approved pool of workers dispatched from the ILWU hall, and the company expects to employ about 25 hourly ILWU employees at the terminal working 12-hour shifts, when needed.
Negotiators for both sides continued talks Tuesday to complete a labor agreement, though union officials announced Monday they had resolved the "fundamental" issues of a contract.
Several observers watching Tuesday berthing said the ship's arrival seemed almost anti-climactic, considering how the ILWU, other local labor groups and the Occupy movement had been calling for a mass protest to greet the ship. Union members and law enforcement had feared violence would erupt on the river or in the streets.
EGT and the ILWU had been fighting over jobs inside the terminal. But on Jan. 23, the yearlong conflict reached a sudden truce when Gov. Chris Gregoire announced she had brokered a cease-fire. Within days, EGT agreed to dispatch workers from the ILWU hall.
Tuesday morning, law enforcement officials had posted a security checkpoint at East Mill Road outside the EGT terminal and four vehicles at the base of the Lewis and Clark Bridge, but no protesters were seen anywhere in the port areas. The Full Sources had left Astoria at about 8 a.m. and was accompanied upriver by Coast Guard vessels as a precaution, but no problems were reported en route.
"We're moving in the right direction. Hopefully, we'll build a good relationship with (EGT) and the port and move forward," Jacobs said.
By opening the West Coast's first new grain terminal in 25 years, EGT is hoping to become a major player in the West Coast grain export industry.
EGT expects to load 150 to 200 ships annually bound for Asia, carrying wheat, corn and soybeans, company spokesman Matthew Beck said. EGT owns three silos in Montana and plans to export grain from the nation's midwestern bread basket.
"This puts Longview on the map for grain exports and increases the strength of American agricultural shipments from the Pacific Northwest," EGT CEO Larry Clarke said in a prepared statement.
Under normal circumstances, a grain ship would be loaded in about 24 to 30 hours, EGT officials said. The Full Sources likely will remain docked for a few days so EGT can test the terminal, company officials said.
The 738-foot Full Sources is owned by Korean shipper Pan Ocean STX, an EGT minority partner. EGT's majority partner, St. Louis-based Bunge North America, is a subsidiary of agriculture giant Bunge Limited, reportedly worth $13.9 billion, according to Yahoo! Finance. Bunge reported $2.5 billion in profit in 2010.
EGT's third partner is Japanese trader Itochu Corp.
Port of Longview officials said that EGT will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in docking fees to the port. They added that they hope the arrival of the ship means the beginning of mended relations with the ILWU.
"We need to get back to normal, if there is such a thing. There's a lot of bridging that needs to take place. It'll probably be years before everything gets back to normal, but this is a good start," Commissioner Bob Bagaason said.