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Global News LA-LB international terminals closed amid latest job action by ILWU

Registration dateAPR 20, 2023

Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior EditorApr 7, 2023, 1:33 PM EDT
Articles reproduced by permission of Journal of Commerce.

Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor
Apr 7, 2023, 1:33 PM EDT
Articles reproduced by permission of Journal of Commerce.

LA-LB international terminals closed amid latest job action by ILWU The Port of Los Angeles said it has been in contact with the ILWU, PMA, and federal, state, and local officials about the latest job action by union members. Photo credit: Ringo Chiu / Shutterstock.com.

All international container terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were shut for Thursday’s night shift and remained closed on Friday’s day shift in the latest job action taken by members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) as coastwide contract talks hit their 11th month with no resolution in sight.

Maersk said in a customer advisory early Friday the job action by union members began when crane operators and top handler drivers from ILWU Local 13 rejected their assignments for Thursday’s second shift.

“As a result, no operations were performed on the night shift,” Maersk said. “Every [international] terminal in the harbor canceled all vessel, yard, rail and gate operations for the night shift with the uncertainty of not knowing if they would be able to resume for Friday’s first shift.”

The job action has continued into Friday, sources told the Journal of Commerce.

"These actions undermine confidence in West Coast ports, and threaten to further accelerate the diversion of discretionary cargo to Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports," the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents shipping lines and terminal operators, said in a 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 directed queries to Local 13; officials at Local 13 were not immediately available for comment Friday.

“Four of the port’s container terminals are closed for the day. Terminal operators at the affected sites said they made the decision to close when workers did not report for their shifts this morning,” Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, said in a statement Friday to the Journal of Commerce. “We have no further information as to the situation, but it is expected that normal, regularly scheduled hours and operations will resume [Saturday].”

The Port of Los Angeles said Friday it has been in contact with the ILWU, PMA, and federal, state, and local officials. “Resuming cargo operations at America’s busiest port complex is critical to maintaining confidence to our customers and supply chain stakeholders,” the port said in a statement.

Sources close to the situation in Southern California noted that Thursday was the final day of Ramon Ponce de Leon’s term as president of ILWU Local 13, and suggested the job action that began Thursday night was linked to his departure. Sources tell the Journal of Commerce that Ponce de Leon has attempted to force into the coastwide negotiations a demand for extra-manning on certain types of cargo-handling equipment, but reportedly his request has been ignored by the coastwide ILWU negotiators. Maersk’s advisory on the job action also referenced Ponce de Leon’s last day as Local 13’s president, although did not mention him by name. Cargo interests seek intervention by Biden administration The closure of the international terminals at Los Angeles and Long Beach is sure to further raise the ire and frustration of US shippers and other cargo interests who worry about disruption linked to the coastwide negotiations and the ongoing diversion of discretionary cargo to ports along the East and Gulf coasts.

“NRF is closely monitoring the situation in California and has reiterated its concerns to the White House. It is essential that the ongoing labor negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association are resolved immediately," David French, senior vice president of government relations for the National Retail Federation, said in a statement Friday. "We again call on the (Biden) administration to engage and prevent any further disruption to port operations and cargo fluidity.”

The recent job actions in Southern California have reached the highest levels of the Biden administration, which is said to be actively looking into the developments, a source who requested anonymity told the Journal of Commerce Friday.

In a March 24 letter to Biden, a coalition of 238 US shippers and transportation interests, frustrated by the lack of progress in West Coast labor negotiations and the resulting diversion of cargo, urged action by the White House.
West Coast share of Asia imports erodes as labor talks drag on
The plea to the Biden administration followed a statement by the PMA that said March job action by union members caused “significant delays” at some marine terminals at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Meanwhile, the West Coast continues to lose discretionary cargo to the East and Gulf coasts as shippers seek to avoid the exact type of disruption that is occurring in Southern California. Data from PIERS, a sister product of the Journal of Commerce within S&P Global, shows that the share of Asian imports landing on the West Coast in February slipped to 53.2 percent, down from 54.5 percent in January and 60.4 percent last May when ILWU-PMA contract talks began.
· Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at bill.mongelluzzo@spglobal.com and follow him on Twitter: @billmongelluzzo.