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Judge lifts order against log exporter

Mateusz Perkowski

Capital Press

A federal judge has cleared the way for an Astoria, Ore., log exporter to move logs owned by a major Chinese building materials company.

A federal judge has dissolved a temporary restraining order that prohibited a log exporter in Astoria, Ore., from moving logs owned by a major Chinese building materials company. 

U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez has cleared the way for Murphy Overseas USA Astoria Forest Products to move the logs, which are owned by the trading division of the China National Building Materials Co.

The ruling marks the latest turn of events in an ongoing legal dispute between the two companies.

The Chinese firm is accusing Murphy Overseas of interfering with its contract with another log exporter, Westerlund Handling.

China National claims that it lent the company $3.55 million in exchange for Westerlund buying, processing and loading logs for export at its facility at the Port of Astoria.

Westerlund was supposed to make loan payments of $60,000 per log shipment from the money earned for the services, according to court documents filed by the foreign firm.

According to China National’s complaint, Murphy Overseas sought to “take control” of Westerlund’s operations in late 2013 and convinced the company not to honor its obligations to the Chinese firm.

Westerlund then terminated its contracts and began handling logs for Murphy Overseas, leaving millions of dollars worth of China National’s logs stranded at the port, the complaint said.

China National claims that Westerlund and Murphy Overseas refused to load those “hostage” logs onto a ship without additional payment, even though that service had already been paid for.

The building materials company has accused the log exporter of trying to move the logs offsite without its permission and obtained a temporary restraining order against the practice earlier in July. 

Hernandez, the federal judge, has now lifted the restraining order because China National failed to show it would suffer irreparable harm if the logs are moved, among other factors.

Murphy Overseas, which has filed its own lawsuit against China National in state court, disputes the foreign company’s characterization of events.

The company claims that China National’s repayment agreement with Westerlund left the log exporter struggling financially and ultimately doomed the log handling deal.

When Westerlund defaulted on its lease with the Port of Astoria, Murphy Overseas took over the lease but did not become its “successor-in-interest,” the company said in a court filing.

China National has refused to move its logs from Murphy Overseas’ lease property and the logs are hindering its log export business, so the company wants to move them to another port property, the document said.



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