US West Coast marine
terminals suspend Monday vessel shifts to reduce backlog
January 19, 2015
Excerpt from an
email from St. George Logistics
U.S. West Coast marine terminals will suspend vessel operations on
all shifts Monday so they can concentrate their resources on clearing
containers from the dangerously congested facilities, the Pacific Maritime
Association reported Sunday.
PMA spokesman Steve Getzug said marine
terminals continue to experience severe congestion “due to the ILWU’s
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union responded that the
PMA is causing terminal congestion by suspending vessel operations at West
Coast ports. “The idea that the PMA is ‘clearing containers’ when it has cut
more than 70 percent of the workers during the day and over 80 percent at
night is a fantasy,” said Adan Ortega, a spokesman for ILWU Local 13 in
The PMA and ILWU have been engaged in a game of brinksmanship for
several weeks now as contract negotiations continue to drag on despite the
involvement of a federal mediator.
Employers suspended vessel operations during the night shifts, first
in Seattle-Tacoma, then in Oakland, and last week in Los Angeles-Long Beach.
The PMA said terminals had become so congested that unloading more containers
at night into the facilities would push them close to complete gridlock.
Indeed, Gene Seroka, executive director of
the Port of Los Angeles, told the annual conference of the California
Trucking Association Saturday in Monterey that terminals in the largest U.S.
port were operating at 95 to 97 percent of permitted land use. Terminal
operators say productivity suffers when a terminal exceeds 80 percent of
Employers said their strategy is to remove as many containers from
the docks as possible during the night shifts so that there will be space
available the next morning to resume vessel unloading.
As expected, suspending night vessel operations has delayed the
completion of vessel work, and therefore ships have been backing up at anchor
at all of the major gateways. The Marine Exchange of Southern California
reported on Sunday that there were 11 container ships at anchor, which were
three fewer than on Saturday.
However, according to the ILWU, the employers’ strategy has not been
working as planned. Ortega said truck traffic at the marine terminals was
very light over the weekend, so “growing mountains of containers” continued
to congest the docks.
The decision by PMA to suspend vessel work all day on Monday, a
national holiday and a day on which dockworkers receive overtime pay, was
certain to cause a stir among rank-and-file longshoremen.
With contract negotiations now in their ninth month, nerves are
frayed and the PMA and ILWU appear to be attempting to wear each other down
financially. By slowing down crane operations and refusing to dispatch
sufficient skilled labor to operate cargo-handling equipment, the ILWU is
causing employers’ costs to skyrocket, the PMA said. PMA’s website shows that
each week terminals are paying 20 to 30 percent more man-hours than the same
week last year, even though container volumes are up only 1 percent.
At the same time, by reducing nighttime work opportunities for
longshoremen, employers hope that rank-and-file longshoremen will pressure
ILWU negotiators to reach a settlement in the contract negotiations.
Despite all of these optics, negotiators are making progress, Chris
Lytle, executive director of the Port of Oakland, told the trucking
association conference Saturday.
“I’m encouraged,” Lytle said. Negotiations continued into the nights
on Thursday and Friday and continued on Saturday. “Go back a few weeks ago
and no one was talking,” he said.
Getzug said each terminal operator on
Monday would choose whether or not it will work. That is the custom on
holidays, he said.
Our regulatory experts are monitoring
the situation and keeping a close eye on labor negotiations, which began on
May 12, 2014. In the meantime we are checking shipment status on a
daily/hourly basis to see where our client’s cargo stands in movement towards
its final destination. While we can’t control the situation we can keep you
contained in this newsletter has been compiled from various industry
newsletters and other public sources. While we use reasonable efforts to
furnish accurate and up-to-date information Page & Jones, Inc. is not
liable or responsible for the accuracy or reliability of any information