After a three and a half day delay from her original schedule, container ship ZIM Piraeus was able to offload cargo on Tuesday night in Oakland.
On Tuesday afternoon, the ship left the pier where she had been berthed since Sunday and went out into the harbor. She then doubled back and arrived, after dark, at another pier in a separate area of the port. Block the Boat activists spun up on Twitter, urging people to flock to the new pier, but although some protesters made it there, longshoremen reportedly began unloading cargo from ZIM Piraeus about 10:00 PM Pacific time.
— Jaime Omar Yassin (@hyphy_republic) August 20, 2014
They continued unloading until 4:00 AM. An early report from Jewish Press recounted facts about the successful cargo transfer; by midday on Wednesday, local reporters had marshaled more information. The detachment of longshoremen numbered 30. The cargo offloaded was from several points of origin, including Turkey, Greece, Spain, Italy, Morocco, and Canada. And it did include cargo from Israel (although ZIM Piraeus didn’t originate in Israel, and would have picked the Israeli cargo up from a Western hemisphere port – possibly Newark, NJ or Kingston, Jamaica, where she recently called). The manifest of cargo offloaded is here.
As of this writing, ZIM Piraeus has left the pier and is in San Francisco Bay, having lingered in an area about 2 nautical miles northeast of Hunters Point for the last several hours. (It’s 4:00 PM in California.)
A small contingent of Block the Boat activists remained at the port through the early afternoon and continued to produce a robust Twitter stream, doubting Piraeus’s intentions.
It’s not unusual for a ship to swing on an anchor in harbor or do doughnuts in the water waiting for a schedule to firm up. Ships only remain at container piers for as long as absolutely necessary to offload their cargo; every minute at the pier costs money, and Piraeus would certainly not linger at the pier just waiting for instructions. The delays she has experienced in Oakland would mean plans for the rest of her cargo and her next ports of call are being reworked. That isn’t stopping Block the Boat Tweeps from hyperventilating over her continued presence.
— ZOMG (@DianaValerie) August 20, 2014
ZIM Piraeus was unlikely to offload all her cargo in Oakland, so activists who think she was supposed to, and are watching for her to go pierside again because she still has containers onboard, are focusing on a bad indicator. The modes of the transport industry all work basically the same way. Cargo is picked up and dropped off in the most efficient way a shipper can manage, which often means that it rides through one or more interim ports of call before it’s delivered. And while Oakland is a big port, it’s not the kind of port where a ship bearing mixed, general cargo is likely to offload everything. (Los Angeles and Long Beach, by contrast, are such ports.)
In any case, container ships load cargo in big ports too, so their overall laden condition may not change much from port to port. How much of her cargo ZIM Piraeus offloaded, and how much she has left onboard, are a function of her tasking. Attributing these conditions to the protests in Oakland requires making unwarranted assumptions.
Bottom line: the officials interviewed by the Oakland Tribune reporters stated that ZIM Piraeus had completed offloading her cargo. Nothing else observed from the ship’s activities disproves that statement.
The Block the Boat protesters did manage to delay ZIM Piraeus. That will affect the ship’s schedule and her future deliveries to waiting customers. The protesters also managed thereby to injure the livelihoods of Teamsters, independent truckers, and small business people in America, who’ve been waiting for the cargo from this ship. (As for the longshoremen, we aren’t privy to the arrangements they had for compensating their non-working time on Sunday and Monday; since they don’t have a contract, standard compensation measures wouldn’t necessarily kick in. But it’s probably a good bet that the longshoremen who worked Tuesday night and Wednesday morning did so because the parent union, the ILWU, told them they wouldn’t be paid unless they worked. The union can’t keep springing for work stoppages day after day when the underlying issue is not a labor dispute.)
— Not Frantz Fanon (@violentfanon) August 20, 2014
Ultimately, the cargo was unloaded in its intended port of arrival – including containers with goods from Israel. In terms of BDS aspirations, it’s a #BDSFail.