West Coast ports shutdown adds to supply chain woes

West Coast ports shutdown adds to supply chain woes

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have shut down for a 24-hour period due to a shortage of dock workers caused by a coordinated action by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

According to the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), starting from 7 April evening a significant number of workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – including cargo loading and unloading operators – did not report to work.

The PMA, which represents employers, said the action effectively shut down the ports.

“These actions undermine confidence in West Coast ports, and threaten to further accelerate the diversion of discretionary cargo to Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports,” reads PMA’s latest statement.

“The health of the Southern California and state economy depend on the ability of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to stem this market share erosion.”

The ILWU has denied the allegation, stating that the work slowdown was due to workers attending a membership meeting and observing the Good Friday holiday.

Operators at the Port of Long Beach temporarily closed four of the seaport’s six terminals due to the worker shortage. However, cargo operations were ongoing as longshore workers remained on the job, according to the ILWU Local 13, which represents union members at both ports.

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

The union workers at the ports have been working without a contract since the previous agreement expired on 1 July 2022.

The prolonged labour dispute has led major retailers to shift cargo to East and Gulf Coast ports to avoid disruptions.

The ILWU and PMA recently announced that they had reached a tentative agreement on key negotiation sticking points and were committed to resolving the contract matter expeditiously.

The Biden administration has been meeting with the groups to help facilitate a deal.

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

The current shutdown of West Coast ports is a “train wreck in slow motion”, according to industry expert Lars Jensen.

“As a rough average LA/LB handles some 25-30,000 TEU in total per day, and as the labour disruptions in 2014/15 showed it does not take long for a substantial queue of container vessels be built up outside California (not to mention the pandemic impact),” added Jensen.

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