The Horizon Lines cargo terminal in Unalaska
shutdown Sunday over worker concerns about potentially explosive refrigerated containers.
The International Longshore and
Warehouse Union notified members up and down the West Coast last week that some
refrigerated containers or "reefers" passing through there could be explosive.
KUCB's Stephanie Joyce has more.
I-L-W-U spokesperson Craig Merrilees
(MERR-eh-lees) says the coolant in some reefers was contaminate d earlier this year
during maintenance work in Vietnam.
15Reefer - 1 "And while nobody knows
for sure what happened, it appears that this cut-rate operation may have used some
dangerous chemicals in the process, maybe introducing them into the compressors.
And the results has been some serious explosions, with some of the compressor units
Horizon Lines is the local agent for
Maersk, one of the affected shipping lines. In a press release issued last week,
Maersk said the coolant in some of their refrigerated units had been linked to three
separate explosions in 2011, all overseas.
Maersk took more than 800 containers
out of circulation as a precaution, but local union president Doug Leggett says
longshoremen weren't satisfied with the response.
15Reefer - 2 "The union's position was
that we wanted to isolate anything that had potentially been serviced in Vietnam
and I believe the employers' initially wanted to only look at containers that had
been at a particular facility over there."
Following the lead of workers in other
West Coast ports, longshoremen in Unalaska refused to transport any Maersk reefers
until Horizon provided maintenance records for the containers.
Union officials met with company representatives
during a closed-door meeting yesterday afternoon to resolve the issue. Leggett says
they agreed to isolate any containers that had refrigerant service done in Vietnam
during the last year.
15Reefer - 3 "That gave us a definition
of what to look for and we've been since then in the process of trying to identify
these boxes and isolate them from the public and from ourselves, so we can eliminate
the potential of having another incident."
According to Leggett, workers have identified
approximately 60 "at-risk" containers in Unalaska and Akutan.
Half of those belong to American President
Lines, another container export company in town. According to spokesperson Mike
Zampa, APL hasn't had any problems with its containers, but was cooperating with
the union request as a precaution.
15Reefer - 4 [15s]"APL has grounded and
isolated 34 refrigerated containers in Dutch Harbor. These are containers that had
undergone maintenance inspections in Vietnam during 2011."
Zampa says APL will review the containers'
service records before proceeding.
Maersk representatives could not be reached
for comment. Horizon Lines' local terminal manager Bruce McConnell could only say
that Horizon containers were not affected.
The local Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment
says they are not investigating the situation.