Friday, February 6, 2015


PMA to suspend West Coast port operations

PMA says ships won't be loaded or unloaded over the weekend, and yard and gate operations will be up to individual terminals.

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) announced Friday that vessel loading and unloading operations at West Coast ports will be temporarily suspended this weekend. Yard operations – moving processed containers for truck and rail delivery to customers – will continue at terminal operators’ discretion, said PMA.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said in a statement “While ships won't be loaded and unloaded, we have asked and been told by container terminals at the port complex that yard and gate operations will continue this weekend as normal.”
Although negotiations between the PMA and International Longshore and Warehouse Union were continuing on Friday, PMA said, "In light of ongoing union slowdowns up and down the coast which have brought the ports almost to a standstill, PMA member companies finally have concluded that they will no longer continue to pay workers premium pay for diminished productivity.
“After three months of union slowdowns, it makes no sense to pay extra for less work,” said PMA spokesman Wade Gates, “especially if there is no end in sight to the union’s actions which needlessly brought West Coast ports to the brink of gridlock.” He said ILWU members make time and a half on weekends.
Vessel operations are scheduled to resume Monday, Feb. 9.
“We urge the ILWU and PMA to continue bargaining in good faith with the federal mediator through the weekend to swiftly reach an agreement,” the two Mayors Garcetti and Garcia said. “We must return our port complex to efficient cargo operations.”
PMA said the ILWU continues to limit operations by withholding the needed crane operators or operating slowly.
Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the ILWU, said, "Closing the ports over the weekend is a crazy way to treat customers. The foreign-owned firms behind this move are insulting the businesses who need their containers, and should focus instead on reaching an agreement that is almost done – and could be finished if they focused more on concluding a contract and less on gimmicks and games that hurt the economy."
Meanwhile, large numbers of ships continue to be anchored off of West Coast ports, waiting for berths to become available.
Kip Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California said Friday morning there were 26 ships waiting for berths at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach including 18 container ships, seven bulk carriers and one tanker.
Some carriers are now discharging cargo bound for Oakland in Los Angeles and Long Beach because of waiting times for berths and a desire to get ships back to the Far East more quickly, rather than wait for berths in both Southern California and Northern California.
Mike Zampa, a spokesman for the Port of Oakland, confirmed this was happening, but did not immediately know exactly how many carriers have decided to omit Oakland calls.
In a letter to customers on Wednesday, Maersk Line said, "Operations at The Port of Oakland have reached a critical level. To ensure that the overall flow of cargo continues while preventing excessive delays to cargo delivery, we announced last week the temporary omission of Oakland on our TP2 and TP6 services."
Maersk said Oakland calls by the DS National on the TP6 string, which sailed from Xiamen on Jan. 19, and Gudrun Maersk on the TP2, which sailed from Shanghai on Jan. 21, will be omitted.
"As we are unable to perform our voyage to Oakland for both above mentioned sailings, under our contract of carriage (bill of lading) we are going to terminate all Oakland cargo in Los Angeles and Long Beach respectively," the carrier said. "Cargo will be made available for pick-up at the pre-mentioned terminals. Empty equipment for Oakland cargo that has been discharged in Los Angeles or Long Beach will need to be returned to the respective terminal from which it was picked-up."
Maersk also said calls to Oakland will be omitted for the MSC Renee and MSC Flavia on the TP6 service, and Gerner Maersk on the TP2.
Don Pisano, president of American Coffee and chairman of the ocean committee of the National Industrial Transportation League, said the requirement that empties be returned to the discharge port "makes matters that much worse and far more costly for the beneficial cargo owners."
Hanjin Shipping is omitting calls in February to the Port of Portland on a service that is also used by other members of the CKYHE Alliance.
Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain at the National Retail Federation called on the ILWU and PMA to "stop holding the supply chain community hostage. Get back to the negotiating table, work with the federal mediator and agree on a new labor contract.
"Temporarily suspending port operations is just another example of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association shooting themselves in the collective bargaining foot," said Gold. "The continuing slowdowns and increasing congestion at West Coast ports are bringing the fears of a port shutdown closer to a reality.
“The entire the supply chain – from agriculture to manufacturing and retail to transportation – has been dealing with the lack of a West Coast port contract for the last nine months," he added.
The two sides have been bargaining since May 12 on a contract to replace a pact that expired on July 1 of last year.
"Enough is enough. The escalating rhetoric, the threats, the dueling press releases and the inability to find common ground between the two sides are simply driving up the cost of products, jeopardizing American jobs and threatening the long term viability of businesses large and small," said Gold.