Cargo to move as truck strike ends in South Korea
June 22, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — U.S. military officials in South Korea predict smooth shopping for customers at on-post stores, despite a truckers’ strike that left much of the cargo shipped from overseas stranded at the port in Busan for seven days.
The strike at the country’s largest port ended Thursday when drivers agreed to return to work after some of their demands were met.
Officials from the Defense Commissary Agency told Stripes on Wednesday they might have to replace popular U.S. brands of perishable items such as yogurt and juice with local products if the strike persisted.
Likewise, Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials had previously said there might be a delay in getting products from the nearly paralyzed port to their central distribution center at Camp Market.
But DECA’s Korea zone manager, Wayne Walk, was upbeat Friday. "We’re good to go," he said, adding that a rail shipment containing 15 cargo containers from Busan had arrived at Yongsan.
Eleven of the containers held cargo bound for commissaries. Four held AAFES merchandize.
"It is difficult to answer the question on how this strike will affect the stores on all items, but I believe we have been able to compensate, and customers should not see bare spots on our shelves as a result," said Peter Catineau, who runs the AAFES central distribution center in South Korea.
According to Korea Cargo Workers Union spokesman Park Sang-hyun, the union called off the strike when local container companies agreed to a 19 percent increase in freight hauling fees, standardized fares and a 50 percent discount on toll gate fees for night shift drivers. All the truckers should be back on the road by Monday, Park said.
U.S. military officials dependent on freight coming from Busan had already put contingency plans in motion by using Army manpower and local rail.
"The trucks strike’s over, but this (the rail shipment) was already paid for," said John Wright, U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan Directorate of Logistics.
Offloading of the 60,000-pound containers was overseen by soldiers from the 551st Inland Cargo Transfer Company. This was the first time the unit had conducted rail operations in South Korea.
"We wouldn’t mind doing this every day," said Sgt. 1st Class Alfredo Carino, 551st ICTC. "There’s a lot of brand new soldiers who’ve never done this before, and they deserve this kind of training."
Representatives from the 19th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), which oversees Army logistics on the peninsula, could not answer queries by deadline Friday regarding the cost of the rail shipment or who who paid for it.
E-mail Jimmy Norris at: email@example.com
Pfc. Malcom Crawford, left, and Spc. James Allgood, 551st Inland Cargo Transfer Company, prepare a 60,000-pound cargo container for movement onto a truck during rail operations Friday at Yongsan Garrison.
Photos by Jimmy Norris/Stars and Stripes
Soldiers from the 551st guide a container to the ground after a crane removes it from a train Friday at Yongsan.