Many are calling it the rock bottom while others are calling it crisis in the making. If you are reading this, that means you are aware of the impending crisis West Coast Ports are heading into. We are in a sinking ship and hoping and praying that somehow we will make it to the other side. How long and how brutal the next few weeks and months will be remains to be seen.
Traffic at nearly all West Coast ports are on the verge of “complete gridlock.” As reported by many news organization, employers have threatened to stop paying dockworkers if a contract deal is not reached soon.
The congestion has been most pronounced at Los Angeles and Long Beach Ports, the nation’s two busiest shipping hubs. Over the past two days, port authorities reported more than 20 freighters left idled at anchor, waiting for berths to open up.
According to Pacific Maritime Association CEO James McKenna, West Coast ports could come to a grinding halt in the upcming weeks crippling U.S. Trade. Our trading activity with Asia will suffer the greatest. The West Coast Ports handles around $1 trillion in trade yearly so the economic effect of this crisis will surely be felt. Mr. McKenna was quiick to add saying that the organization is not considering a technical “lockout,” but warned that the shipping system would inevitably bring itself to a stop if congestion persists.
The crisis began to unfold in Los Angeles-Long Beach when the ILWU on Nov. 3rd notified employers that the union hall would slash from 110 to 35 the number of yard crane operators that would be dispatched each day, and that has been the routine each day for the past three months. Seattle and Tacoma are also terribly congested, with seven container vessels reported to be at anchor and awaiting berthing space. The PMA said the ILWU is hard-timing employers in Oakland and Seattle-Tacoma by reducing crane productivity from a historical level of about 28 container moves per crane, per hour.
The companies have repeatedly accused the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents 20,000 dockworkers, of deliberately orchestrating work slowdowns at the ports to gain leverage at the bargaining table. The union has denied this and faulted the carriers themselves for the congestion, citing numerous changes in shipping practices singled out by port authorities as contributing factors. Union president Robert McEllrath accused management of posturing. “This is the second time in recent memory that the employers have threatened to close ports at the final stages of negotiation,” he said in a statement. The union, he added, has not gone on strike over its coast longshore contract since 1971.
Regardless of whom you choose to blame, effects of these irresponsible and potentially criminal actions taken by Unions are translating into harsh conditions, impeding on Importers and Exporters ability to trade efficiently. If this pandemic continues, US Economy will undoubtedly suffer because greedy Unions and uncompromising employers refuse to come to the bargaining table to work out a deal that is realistic and fair for both parties.