Longshoremen at the Port of Oakland began refusing to work vessels calling at the TraPac and SSA Marine terminals this week, joining actions that began at the Port of Seattle last week in response to concerns over exploding refrigerated containers, according to published reports.
The companies that service the containers in Vietnam have warned containers can explode when they are powered up, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Maritime authorities report that three of the reefer containers exploded or caused fire, resulting in two fatalities in Vietnam and one in Brazil during the spring. The explosions are believed to be the result of contaminated gas added to the refrigerated units during servicing in Vietnam.
Three containers that exploded were operated by Maersk Line, but the danger has all container carriers scrambling to find any reefer boxers that have been repaired in Vietnam since February removed from power sources and quarantined.
Maersk Line has removed all 844 reefer containers in its fleet that have undergone repairs in Vietnam since February.
"While we cannot state with total certainty that we have identified the root cause, we are confident that we have taken the necessary precautions to avoid fiurther incidents," said Soren Toft, head of center operations, inland terminals and equipment at Maersk.
The latest explosion came Oct. 7 in Itajai, Brazil, and killed a technician working on the unit, a Maersk spokesman said.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union local in Oakland is refusing to work three vessels at the SSA Marine terminal, demanding that the terminal provide a history of all of the containers on the vessels. SSA Marine is willing to identify all of the containers that are from Vietnam, as is being done at facilities in Southern California.
Two ships at the TraPac terminal have been idled.
The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents waterfront employers, reached that agreement with the ILWU local in Los Angeles-Long Beach, but the ILWU local in Oakland reportedly wants the entire history of all reefer containers.
A similar job action occurred over the weekend in Seattle-Tacoma, but employers and the ILWU local also reached an agreement and longshormen are back to handling reefer containers in the Pacific Northwest.
Shipping lines have notified the World Shipping Council of links between malfunctioning reefer containers and the servicing of those containers at shipyards in Vietnam.