For months now, importers and exporters at U.S. West Coast ports have been dealing with massive congestion that has only gotten worse during the peak season. There are quite a few articles written recently detailing the numerous contributing factors that have led to the current logjam at the ports. Of these factors, the one that now threatens to tip the ports from massive congestion to complete standstill is the ILWU – PMA contract stand-off.
The ILWU has been working without a contract since July 2014. The ILWU and PMA have maintained press silence since that time. However the PMA broke the silence when they announced earlier this week that the ILWU was purposely slowing down productivity in the Pacific Northwest ports (Seattle / Tacoma). This slowdown purportedly began last weekend.
What is more dangerous, if what we are hearing is true, is that similar slowdown tactics have spread to Los Angeles / Long Beach terminals in recent days. Los Angeles / Long Beach terminals are already on the verge of collapsing under the weight of all the containers they are trying to process. We already have seen regular vessel delays in Los Angeles of at least a few days for each vessel.
The greatest fear right now is that if that the slowdowns do spread and the PMA and terminal operators may feel that they have no alternative but to lockout the ILWU. This would lead to a disastrous port shutdown, similar to the one experienced in 2002.
Importers and exporters are advised to ship with extreme caution and understanding of the fragility of the current situation at the U.S. West Coast ports. Those who have the option to ship via other ports would be wise to begin doing so until this current unrest settles.
The situation is one that may be changing daily. I will keep everyone updated. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.
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