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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:15 p.m., Friday, October 4, 2002

Cargo set for Alaska; no word on Hawai'i

By Mike Gordon
and Kelly Yamanouchi
Advertiser Staff Writers

Dockworkers began moving goods stuck at West Coast ports onto ships bound for Alaska today, but efforts to get cargo moving to Hawai'i were less clear.

Dick Marzano, vice president of ILWU Local 23 in Tacoma, Wash., said about 150 workers began loading two ships bound for Alaska this morning after hearing of a lift on the lockout on domestic and military cargo.

A CSX Lines ship and a Totem Ocean Trailer Express ship were expected to be fully loaded by between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. tonight and ready to set sail for Alaska with groceries, military cargo and other goods. He said cargo operations there are set to return to full schedules.

It was unclear this morning where Hawai'i's request for a similar exemption stands. Gov. Ben Cayetano had asked the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping lines and terminals and had closed the ports Sunday, to allow the shipments. The maritime association did not return calls this morning.

The resumption of shipments to Alaska came as officials with the carriers' association and the union said progress was being made in the federally mediated talks.

Meanwhile, 51 groups representing retailers, farmers and manufacturers asked for a White House meeting to help end the lockout, which has led to increasing concern in the Islands about the possibility of shortages.

This morning, Cayetano's office said it was told the maritime association had granted an exemption for Alaska, but had made no decision yet for Hawai'i. The governor's office said it was told that Alaska was granted the exemption because it had a shorter supply of food.

"The governor is in touch with the parties, and he remains hopeful that our request for the exemption for Hawai'i will come through soon, so he continues to work on that. He's hopeful, but it's not here yet," said Jackie Kido, a spokeswoman for the governor.

Steve Stallone, a spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse union, said the union had been making requests to allow shipments to both Hawai'i and Alaska all week.

He said a ship that did not belong to the maritime association was being loaded today for Alaska with "essential goods," and another ship that belonged to the association would be loaded soon.

"It's the same kind of stuff that Hawai'i wants," Stallone said. "We have been asking the same thing for Hawai'i. We have been asking PMA to allow us to work the essential supplies for Hawai'i. We asked again this morning, and PMA flat-out refused."

ILWU International President James Spinosa said today that he again requested the maritime association allow union members to work ships with vital supplies bound for Hawai'i.

In a letter addressed to PMA chief executive Joe Miniace, Spinosa noted that the employer association finally agreed to allow the ILWU to work ships for Alaska after nearly a week of such requests from the union.

"Hawai'i should be no different since they are in the same precarious position as Alaska," Spinosa wrote. "The Hawaiian Islands are almost completely dependent on consumer supplies from outside, including most of its food. The ILWU has nearly 20,000 members working in various industries on the Islands and is very concerned for their welfare as well as the entire economy of the state that has been severely hurt since the Sept. 11 tragedy damaged its main industry of tourism."

The union and the shipping lines continued to meet today with a federal mediator at a hotel in San Francisco, Stallone said. There was no timetable as to how long they would continue.

"Short of some sort of break-down, I would imagine we would stay at the table every day," he said.

A Matson spokesman said today that he had not heard of any decision on an exemption for Hawai'i.

Marzano, of the ILWU in Tacoma, said the two shipping lines currently resuming operations to Alaska make up about 75 percent of commodities to Alaska.

"We are finally grateful that we're able to do what we do best, and we're even more pleased that the Alaska citizens will get the needed supplies. We've been saying all along, that this cargo needs to be moving up there," Marzano said.

CSX Lines is also one of Hawai'i's two major shippers.

Totem Ocean Trailer Express, a shipping line serving Alaska, asked the longshore union to provide 100 workers to load cargo this morning.

Totem Ocean Chief Executive Robert Magee said the company isn't a member of the maritime association, and it decided to hire the union directly after requests from Alaska's congressional delegation and governor.

The ILWU agreed to work on its ships under an exemption allowing it to staff ships in domestic trade. The company plans to send another ship to Alaska this weekend as it returns to its thrice-weekly schedule.

The Associated Press, Bloom berg News and The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.