Oakland Tribune

OAKLAND -- A container ship delayed by protests at the Port of Oakland for four days was unloaded by longshore workers overnight and sailed away early Wednesday, officials said.

Offloading of cargo on the Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. vessel Piraeus, operated by an Israeli company, had been delayed by Block the Boat activists protesting recent Israeli military actions in Gaza.

The ship was eventually unloaded, starting late Tuesday night, at Berth 22 in the area known as Ports America Outer Harbor, Port spokesman Robert Bernardo said.

The Zim Integrated Shipping Lines vessel Piraeus sits idle at the Port of Oakland on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014.
The Zim Integrated Shipping Lines vessel Piraeus sits idle at the Port of Oakland on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. (Laura A. Oda)

The Piraeus had initially docked over the weekend at the Oakland International Container Terminal. Protesters responded, with demonstrations involving hundreds, at times, monitored by large contingents of Oakland police, sheriff's deputies and CHP officers. Longshore workers, concerned for safety reasons, didn't cross picket lines at the terminal, union officials said.

But after four days sitting idle at the terminal, the Piraeus briefly sailed away Tuesday evening and then returned, docking at the different berth.

Because only a small number of protesters and police presence remained, longshore workers "determined that the atmosphere did not pose a threat to their safety," allowing them to safely enter and work the vessel, ILWU Local 10 said in a news release.


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Jennifer Sargent, a union spokeswoman, said Wednesday that after some delays, 30 longshore workers began unloading the ship at 10 p.m. Tuesday and finished at 4 a.m. Wednesday. The ship left the port later that morning.

The ship's cargo included sparkling wine and ceramic tiles from Spain, cheese and long-grain rice from Italy, and organic red lentils and marble from Turkey. Commodities also included irrigation equipment, solar heaters for swimming pools, and tires, according to the ship's cargo list.

Even though the ship was eventually unloaded, Block the Boat called the four-day delay a "historic victory."

The delay sparked concerns from another union, the Teamsters Joint Council 7, which represents about 100 truckers and warehouse workers at the Port of Oakland, said Teamsters spokesman Doug Bloch.

During the protest, the Teamsters had issued a statement calling on longshore workers to "immediately unload the ship" and said their issue was not the Gaza conflict, but the impact the protests have on local jobs.

"Our members haul containers from the Port of Oakland by truck and rail and anything that hurts commerce hurts our members and damages the economy of the Bay Area," said Rome Aloise, Vice President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and President of Teamsters Joint Council 7.

"Our position has not changed," Bloch said Wednesday. "If any of the truck drivers get blocked from going in and out, they don't get paid. And more than 90 percent of them are independently contracted. They only get paid if they pick up and drop off containers. That's just one example of the impact."

Mohamed Shehk, a spokesman for Block the Boat, said Wednesday that the ship was "blocked for the longest time it has ever been in history. The losses from the delay were enormous financially."

Neither Port officials nor union representatives could estimate the amount of financial losses posed by the delay.

Shehk said Block the Boat hopes to build on the momentum in Oakland for future actions. Organizers are already coordinating with activists in Tacoma, Seattle, Los Angeles and Vancouver to continue to block the ship across the West Coast.

David Goodstone, spokesman for the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest, said the protesters' actions have little effect on Israel.

"It is the people of Oakland and California who will suffer as a consequence of this deliberate attempt to prevent commerce and jeopardize jobs, and compromise the healthy future of the Oakland Port," he said Wednesday.