Congestion at West Coast ports is having a negative impact on the ability to export fresh fruit, vegetables, and tree nuts all while the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) continue contract negotiations. The two sides have been negotiating a new contract since May. The previous contract expired July 1, 2014.
Both sides are blaming the other for issues being experienced at affected ports. The PMA is accusing the union of an intentional work slowdown, while the union is claiming that the lack of sufficient equipment and the increased number of containers being handled from large mega vessels is contributing to the slowdown.
Pacific Northwest ports have been hit first and hardest thus far, with some shippers reporting that perishable shipments can sit for days waiting to be loaded. It appears that this is now spreading to the Ports of Oakland, Los Angeles, and Long Beach. One WG member stated that he has experienced the worst delays at the Port of Long Beach, adding that a day can be lost just trying to get an empty container out of port. The matter seems to be further complicated by slower vessel transit times and last minute changes in the port rotation.
Fear of a complete shutdown has prompted many industry leaders to encourage President Obama by to take this action by requesting that a federal mediator settle the dispute.
Western Growers is working with other industry partners and government stakeholders to pursue a quick resolution to this situation that threatens fresh produce trade. Additionally, if you have any problems moving product through the ports, please notify Western Growers staff member Ken Gilliland about the nature of the delays you’re facing.
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