Shippers continue their concerns over potential port service disruption, as the International Longshoremen's Association and United States Maritime Alliance continue their negotiations for a contract agreement before the Sept. 30 deadline. For shippers with global supply chains, ports play a critical role in freight movement and a potential disruption would be destructive to shippers' ability to deliver goods and materials through those supply chains. While a work stoppage would be the most harmful result, negotiators are mindful that if the parties fail to reach an agreement in advance of the Sept. 30 deadline, shippers would be forced to redirect shipments to the West Coast to avoid an interruption in their supply chains. The ongoing labor negotiations will impact 14 East and Gulf Coast ports, which together account for 95 percent of all containerized shipments to the Eastern Seaboard.
The ILA and USMX met for two days of negotiations in late June and reported "substantial progress" in their talks. They are scheduled to meet again tomorrow, July 18, in Delray Beach, Fla. "This potential disruption would be devastating to supply chains and NASSTRAC shippers are extremely concerned over the potential ramifications of service disruption at these ports," says Brian Everett, NASSTRAC's Executive Director. "I'm hearing some say they are planning for the worst and hoping for the best." In fact, he's heard some shippers are already beginning to redirect their supply chains in order to allow adequate lead time to ensure that customer needs can continue to be met, regardless of whether the negotiations are successfully concluded by Sept. 30.