As a work stoppage by truckers at the Vancouver, B. C., port drags into its fifth week, Peter Slupski worries his wine isn't going to make...
As a work stoppage by truckers at the Vancouver, B.C., port drags into its fifth week, Peter Slupski worries his wine isn’t going to make it.
The importer has 26,400 bottles of Australian chardonnay and shiraz, valued at about $277,000, stuck in two nonrefrigerated shipping containers.
“It could all be going bad,” said Slupski, president of Vinterra Wine Merchants of Vancouver. “It may be OK if they’re at the bottom of the pile. Who knows?”
Independent truckers are demanding higher hauling fees to cover their soaring fuel costs, and their protest is stranding goods from Slupski’s wine to Chinese shoes and tires from Japan at Canada’s busiest port.
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With truckers refusing to haul shipping containers into or out of the port, about 25,000 of the 40-foot units are stuck at the terminals.
Several hundred cargo containers have been diverted to the Port of Seattle for storage, said Port spokesman Mick Shultz. “A lot of the same ships that stop in Vancouver on their regular routes also stop in Seattle,” he said.
Shultz said the Seattle port is not expecting any long-term windfall from the Vancouver port’s troubles, because the work stoppage has affected cargo mostly destined for regional markets in Vancouver and British Columbia. It hasn’t had much effect on long-haul cargo destined for U.S. cities that the Seattle port competes for.
But Canadian exporters are having trouble getting products to overseas customers, and retailers are running low on some products.
“I would say collectively this dispute is costing the tire industry millions,” Bob Anderson, director of off-road tire sales for Tirecraft Auto Centres, said by telephone from Sherwood Park, Alberta. “We’re in a midst of a shortage of imported tires.”
The Retail Council of Canada, a trade group, urged the federal government in Ottawa this week to end the trucking protest. “Sales are being lost, customers are irate and employees are worrying about layoffs,” said Diane Brisebois, chief executive of the council.
The truckers, who haul about 3,000 containers a day, want their base rate raised to at least $88 for the shortest one-way trips, up from $53, said trucker Steve Bechtel. After a 10-hour day, the truckers say they end up with about $41 after paying for their fuel, insurance and other costs.
“The shipping lines, the trucking companies and the ports are all making huge amounts of money,” said Bechtel, 52, among truckers protesting near a port gate on Clark Drive in East Vancouver. The hauling rates “make us feel completely left out.”
About 30 percent of the port’s imported containers move to markets by truck, the remainder by trains, said Duncan Wilson, a spokesman for the Vancouver Port Authority.
“These truckers need to get back to work,” he said. “This is damaging our reputation.”
The provincial and federal governments have stayed out of the truckers’ dispute, other than to appoint a mediator to help coax the two sides toward a resolution. Talks resumed this week, Wilson said.
“This is not a dispute between an employer and its unionized employees,” said Peter Graham, a spokesman for Labor Minister Joe Fontana in Ottawa. “You cannot force independently employed individuals to work if they do not want to work.”
Seattle Times reporter Tom Boyer reported on the impact of the strike on the Port of Seattle.