The Port of Portland will provide a rail shuttle for shippers to move their products to the Puget Sound ports. The partnership with BNSF Railway will move containers between Portland and Seattle/Tacoma, where goods can be loaded onto ocean carriers. The rail service will operate five days a week.
Bringing lucrative container activity back to the Port of Portland is a slow process. The Port announced last fall that Swire Shipping will begin a monthly container call at Terminal 6 this month.
Since the week before Christmas, containers have been dropped off by truck. As of January they can then be picked up by ship by Swire (a mixed cargo ship which may have trucks and break bulk goods) or they may be moved by BNSF trains.
There will also be imports coming down on the rail shuttle five days a week.
It is not necessarily cheaper by train, but it offers different schedule for moving good.
"The rail service will [give] our local shippers another path to market," said Curtis Robinhold, Port of Portland executive director. "We hope to continue building on this momentum and interest at Terminal 6."
The Port is targeting 1,000 containers per week, importing and exporting. A Port spokesperson said the trains will not run on the same tracks as the Amtra Cascades passenger service, whose inaugural run derailed December 19, 2017, killing three.
The Port has also hired a consultant team, Advisian, to help determine the future role of container shipping in Portland with a sustainable business model for managing and developing the terminal. Advisian will report to the Port of Portland Commission on Wednesday January 10, 9.30am.
The Port engaged an industry leader committee comprised of 22 members with diverse representation including exporters, importers, service providers, carriers, ports, labor (IBEW and ILWU), and legislators with strong shipper interests.
A Cathay Pacific air freight option at Portland International Airport began operating in 2016 and moves goods such as footwear, apparel, electronics, cherries and seafood to Asia.