US West Coast ports facing complete gridlock

The US West Coast port operations are approaching complete gridlock which may result in shutdown of ports, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) said.

Vessel production across the West Coast remains lower than normal. Vessels have been forced to anchor due to slow vessel turn times in the ports. Backlog of anchored vessels continues to grow in Seattle/Tacoma, Oakland and Los Angeles/Long Beach, German carrier Hapag Lloyd said in a customer advisory.

PMA blames the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) for the slowdowns “that have methodically reduced terminal productivity at the five largest ports.”

The two parties have entered the eight month of contract negotiations without a definite deal.

To date, the ILWU and PMA have reached tentative agreements on health care and increases to pay guarantees.

That tentative agreement provides fully employer-paid health care benefits valued at USD 35,000 per worker annually. PMA also has proposed pay increases and pension enhancements. There are no takeaways in the PMA proposal. “The ILWU’s action in Southern California goes against 15 years of precedent and targets precisely the skilled workers who are most essential to clearing congested terminals. By withholding an average of 75 yard crane drivers each day, the ILWU has stalled the movement of tens of thousands of containers,” PMA estimates.

In addition, since November 3, the Union has reduced these yard crane operator positions in Southern California by 67 percent, PMA added. “ILWU members, among the highest paid union workers in America, are receiving full wages and benefits while stifling productivity and putting West Coast port terminals at the brink of full shutdown,” PMA said.

According to PMA spokesperson Steve Getzug, the Union’s motivation is to continue slowdowns in an attempt to gain leverage in the bargaining.

The PMA said it has alerted the local port authorities to the deteriorating situation on the docks.

Last week, PMA and ILWU agreed to outside intervention in the form of a federal mediator . Since the mediator joined the talks, no further agreements have been reached.

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