US West Coast ports show resilience to labour negotiations

US West Coast ports show resilience to labour negotiations

Recent findings from FourKites suggest that labour issues at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are not causing significant disruptions to import volumes.

The US West Coast has been a key route for global imports for years, but labor disputes and constant bottlenecks have made supply chains wary.

“With lower import volumes and significantly lower dwell times, labour issues at the ports of LA and Long Beach are proving to be minor inconveniences,” said Glenn Koepke, GM Network Collaboration at FourKites.

“Given the government’s willingness to intervene and avoid a crisis, it’s likely that labour disputes do not become a major issue in the near term.”

READ: Lunch break dispute brings West Coast ops to a halt

According to data, the proportion of US imports arriving at West Coast ports has fallen to levels below 40 per cent in four of the past six months.

As of April 11, FourKites found that only 36 per cent of US import shipments arrived at West Coast ports, compared to at least 42 per cent for the second half of 2022.

However, import dwell times have started to stabilise on the West Coast since the beginning of 2023, with a 28-day average dwell time of 4.8 days.

In contrast, East Coast imports are seeing a 3.3 28-day average dwell time as of April 11.

READ: West Coast labour deal will ‘not be done this year’

Despite the improvement in import dwell times, the percentage of over-the-road (OTR) stops delayed at Los Angeles and Long Beach ports has remained elevated through the first few months of 2023, with 58.5 per cent of OTR stops delayed as of April 11.

This is down from a peak of 64.8 per cent in February 2023.

FourKites noted that the decline in import volumes has led to a reduction in labour issues and delays, which has allowed the West Coast to better compete with the East Coast in terms of infrastructure investments and performance.

“West Coast volumes will steadily rise and be balanced with the East Coast in mid-Q3 when retailers and importers gear up for the holiday season,” said Koepke, adding that this will help achieve “longer-term stability and reliability.”

READ: Los Angeles faces weak Q1 performance as labour negotiations take priority

In the meantime, tensions between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) are high and a resolution may not be reached anytime soon.

The PMA has recently intensified its rhetoric in response to labour talks on the West Coast, claiming that ILWU is deliberately delaying negotiations and is not negotiating in good faith.

Just a few months ago, both sides announced that negotiations were still ongoing and parties were hopeful to reach an agreement soon.

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