US West Coast ports suffer chronic cargo backup

Monday, 9 February 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Ships gather off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California in this aerial photo taken 6 February 2015. The loading and unloading of cargo freighters has been suspended at all 29 US West Coast ports this weekend because of chronic slowdowns on the docks that shippers and terminal operators have blamed on the dockworkers’ union, the companies said Friday – REUTERS       LOS ANGELES (Reuters): The loading and unloading of freighters will be suspended at all 29 US West Coast ports this weekend, shipping companies said on Friday, citing chronic cargo backups that the shippers and dockworkers union have blamed on each other during months of labour tensions. But terminal yard, rail and gate operations at the ports, handling nearly half of US maritime trade and over 70% of imports from Asia, will go on at the discretion of terminal managers through Saturday and Sunday, the Pacific Maritime Association said. The announcement added to the discord surrounding negotiations of a new labour contract for 20,000 dockworkers, represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, that have dragged on for nearly nine months. “In light of ongoing union slowdowns up and down the coast which have brought the ports almost to a standstill, PMA member companies finally have concluded that they will no longer continue to pay workers premium pay for diminished productivity,” the association said in a brief statement. It said vessel loading and unloading operations were scheduled to resume on Monday, while yard operations – moving unloaded cargo containers for truck and rail delivery to customers – would continue at terminal operators’ discretion. The union, insisting the parties were near a settlement in the federally mediated talks, branded the shippers’ move another act of public posturing that distracted from negotiations. The PMA has estimated that the 2002 lockout caused $ 15.6 billion in economic losses. When it ended, some 200 freighters were waiting at anchor to be unloaded.