USA WEST COAST PORTS UPDATE
After nine months of often bitter and damaging negotiations, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have announced a tentative agreement on a new five-year contract covering workers at all 29 US west-coast ports.
Whilst the agreement is still subject to ratification by both parties, it is widely expected to be accepted.
Attention has now turned to whether the protracted negotiations have caused long-term damage to the reputation of Pacific Coast terminals.
Containerships continue to queue outside the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. It may take several months for the industry to clear the backlog of vessels in anchorage as well as cargo in the terminals. Oakland in particular, is hardest hit by the latter situation.
Last week, the mayors of both Los Angeles and Long Beach held a press conference thanking the unions and port employers for "heeding their call to resolve the labour dispute" and to tell the world that the west coast is already on the road to recovery. “Now that our ports are moving again we plan to redouble our efforts to invest in port infrastructure, increase trade and ensure that we remain the best place to do business on the west coast,” said Long Beach mayor Robert Garcia.
Last Thursday, the two ports announced that the US Federal Maritime Commission had given them permission to discuss and agree on projects and programmes that address congestion issues, transportation infrastructure needs and reduce pollution caused by port related activities.
Most shipping industry sources believe that it will take months, not weeks, to clear the current backlog.
US west coast ports were facing difficulties, with chassis provision, truck driver shortages, intermodal capacity and peak volumes caused by larger ships, even before the dispute between the ILWU and PMA began. Many of these issues remain unresolved.
Arrivals and departures in New Zealand are continuing to be seriously delayed, as lines struggle with schedule integrity in the US – NZ – AU – Asia loops which are all connected.
We suggest our clients, both importers and exporters – discuss with suppliers and customers, ways and means to add at least 10 days to current lead time expectations.