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Photo courtesy Port of Los Angeles

West Coast Port Disruptions to Extend to Tuesday

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June 6, 2023

By Laura Curtis and Jordan Fabian (Bloomberg) —

Intermittent disruptions at several key US West Coast ports are set to stretch into their fifth day Tuesday amid ongoing labor-contracts negotiations.

Pacific Container Terminals at the Port of Long Beach has canceled cargo operations for Tuesday’s first shift, according to a notice sent to the trucking community. The notice didn’t cite a reason for the closure.

At least one terminal at the Port of Los Angeles canceled cargo operations Monday, while two terminals at the Port of Long Beach were closed Monday “based on operational needs” and will reopen for the evening shift, Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a statement. The port is otherwise running normally, he said.

West Coast dockworkers and their employers have been holding labor contract negotiations for over a year, with the occasional slowdown or work stoppage interrupting the flow of cargo that goes through the US’s biggest import hub.

The Pacific Maritime Association blamed the International Longshore and Warehouse Union for the latest spate of disruptions. 

“Over the weekend and continuing today, the ILWU has continued to stage concerted and disruptive work actions that have slowed operations at key marine terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and elsewhere on the West Coast, including the Ports of Oakland and Seattle,” PMA, which represents ocean carriers and terminal operators, said in a statement issued Monday. 

“Union leaders are implementing many familiar disruption tactics from their job action playbook, including refusing to dispatch workers to marine terminals, slowing operations, and making unfounded health and safety claims,” the group added. 

A spokesman for ILWU declined to comment on PMA’s statement. ILWU’s Local 13 chapter, which represents Southern California dockworkers, said in a statement Friday that cargo operations at LA and Long Beach ports continued, but that its members have “taken it upon themselves to voice their displeasure with the ocean carriers’ and terminal operators’ position.”

Earlier Closures 

Fenix Marine Services at the Port of Los Angeles said in a notice there was “a disruption in our gate-and-yard operations” Monday morning and that the gate would remain closed for the remainder of the day shift. The company had canceled work on Friday due to a similar issue that prevented drivers from accessing imports. FMS terminal had planned to open normally on Monday, according to its website. 

Meanwhile, labor shortages that effectively shut Oakland’s international terminals on Friday appeared to resolve Monday. “The Port of Oakland’s marine terminals are operational today,” Director of Communications Robert Bernardo said in an email.

The National Retail Federation on Monday renewed calls for the White House to intervene in the contract talks.

“As we enter the peak shipping season for the holidays, these additional disruptions will force retailers and other important shipping partners to continue to shift cargo away from the West Coast ports until a new labor contract is established,” David French, senior vice president of government relations at NRF, said in a statement.

Harbor Trucking Association CEO Matt Schrap said last-minute disruptions at the ports drives up costs for truckers and is challenging for the whole supply chain.

“We schedule appointments for container pick up days ahead of time,” Schrap said in a statement. “If appointments get canceled or a gate closes we need to react and redeploy.”

The Biden administration will continue to monitor the situation closely as negotiations continue, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday. But she declined to say whether the White House would intervene in the talks.

“We know negotiations are very hard” though negotiators have overcome some major sticking points already, Jean-Pierre said. “We are going to continue to encourage all parties to work in good faith toward a mutually beneficial resolution.”

ILWU, which represents about 22,000 dockworkers on the US West Coast, has been negotiating a new labor contract with PMA since May of last year. The previous contract expired on July 1, 2022. 

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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