Potentially Hazardous Containers Close Two Port Of Oakland Terminals

Oakland: The dockworkers' union forced the shutdown of two marine terminals Monday morning over concerns that refrigerated container units that were serviced in Vietnam during March and April could explode when they are powered up. The closures were expected to continue Tuesday.

The companies that supply the containers have issued safety bulletins. Memos to the Oakland marine terminals say that the union will not allow any refrigerated units through the gates until it gets a list of all refrigerated units serviced or re-gassed in Vietnam.

According to an Oct. 26 article in World Cargo News, refrigerated containers have been quarantined around the world after reports of "compressor explosions and incidents of spontaneous combustion that have resulted in at least three fatalities."

The problem could have something to do with the addition of incompatible or unsuitable refrigerant gas, the article said.

So far the shutdown at Oakland's port has affected the SSA and TraPac terminals, but the impacts were felt far and wide as long lines of trucks snaked down Maritime Street and Middle Harbor Road. SSA will also be closed on Tuesday, according to an automated announcement.

By midafternoon Monday, the Coast Guard had isolated about 13 containers that had been serviced in Vietnam and inspected three, said Isaac Kos-Read, director of external affairs for the port.

He said the port is working with the Coast Guard and the Pacific Maritime Association to resolve the container problem. "There have been no injuries at the Port of Oakland," Kos-Read said.

According to an Oct. 31 article in Journal of Commerce: 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.