The ILWU contract governing longshore labor at U.S. West Coast ports is expiring on July 1, 2014. Contract negotiations are set to begin in May. The goal of these talks is to reach an amicable agreement on a renewed contract but there is a chance that we may encounter slowdowns at the port, work stoppages, or if escalated, a strike or lockout of labor at all West Coast ports. While many industry experts have predicted there will be no lockout or strike this time, due to the volume of business that shifted to U.S. East Coast ports in 2002 (and never returned), there is still a chance for lockout or strike.
Ocean carriers have yet to release their contingency plans in the event of a coastal shutdown. If history repeats itself, and another lockout occurs, some vessels could be handled at Canadian ports but most will simply go to anchor off the West Coast. While Canadian ports gear up for additional volume during the weeks following the July 1 renewal date, they will only be able to handle a small percentage above their own peak volume period at the same time.
Our recommended alternatives include:
- Ship early for cargo arrival in U.S. West Coast ports before July 1 or consider delaying for arrival after July 1
- Consider alternate routing options to Canadian ports, U.S. East Cost or Gulf ports
- Consider shipping a small amount of needed goods by air
Potential impact on East Coast ports
If you are already an East Coast shipper or consignee, you too may be impacted, since U.S. West Coast contingency plans will almost certainly push a higher volume of cargo to East Coast ports during the first three weeks of July. To avoid overbooked vessels and terminal delays, you may also consider shipping early or holding cargo a little later, if at all possible.
We will continue to email alerts on this topic as more news becomes available. Please work with your Mohawk customer service team to ensure minimal disruption to your supply chain.
Rich Roche is Vice President, International Transportation for Mohawk Global Logistics. Read more about Rich here.