News US West Coast congestion hits new high as ILWU, PMA lay blame on manning posted on 22nd January 2015 10:12:44 AM Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor Congestion at West Coast ports is the worst it has been since longshoremen began hard-timing employers in early November, and conditions are expected to worsen as terminal operators and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union use manning issues to see how much pain they can inflict on each other. The strategies being deployed by the Pacific Maritime Association and the union are expected to continue even though both parties have agreed to negotiate their coastwide contract under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Employers and the union are intensifying their efforts to punish each other despite the involvement of the federal mediator in the negotiations. Terminal operators, which are incurring huge expenses because of plunging productivity, have been attempting to cut back on labor costs wherever possible. For example, terminal operators stopped night gate operations in Seattle and Tacoma several weeks ago, and in Oakland during the past two weeks. Most of the 13 container terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach continue to operate night gates, but they recently stopped ordering longshoremen to work on vessels during the night shift. With mountains of containers building on the docks, employers said it had become counterproductive to unload more containers at night and add to the congestion. Therefore, the terminals in Southern California have maintained yard and gate operations at night in an attempt to make room for containers that would be discharged from ships the next morning when vessel operations resumed. These actions, while based upon basic operating procedures, have a residual impact as well on work opportunities for longshoremen. Dockworkers in Seattle, Tacoma and Oakland have lost all of their night work, and crane operators in Southern California have lost their vessel work at night. When longshoremen don’t work, they don’t get paid. The PMA said none of this would be necessary if ILWU crane operators in the Pacific Northwest ports would return to their normal productivity of about 28 container moves per crane per hour. Those numbers plunged below 20 moves per hour in late October when the ILWU began to implement work slowdowns to pressure employers in the coastwide contract negotiations, the PMA has said numerous times since then. In Southern California, the ILWU’s strategy has been to short employers the skilled yard crane operators that are crucial to keep containers moving through the yards and out of the gates. The PMA reported that in early November the ILWU locals informed employers that the number of yard crane operators the union would dispatch each day would decrease from 110 to 35. Horrendous delays and gridlock resulted immediately. (See chart on homepage of JOC.com.) The ILWU disputes those numbers. “The shipping companies have 700 steady crane operators at their disposal, who are trained and certified, who do not report to the dispatch hall,” said Adan Ortega, spokesman for ILWU Local 13. “They are ILWU Local 13 members who are telling us that they are only reporting for work three to four days a week.” Ortega said the manning decisions being made by employers, if reversed, would result in the dispatch of enough longshoremen “to staff a semi-full contingent of three gangs at night as well as the three gangs used during the day,” he said. Furthermore, crews being ordered by employers to work in the yards each day “are at 50 percent,” Ortega said. Employers and longshoremen are paying a dear price as the manning war continues. The congestion and shorting of labor in Southern California have had the paradoxical result of increasing work opportunities for general longshoremen (those not trained to operate equipment), and subsequently boosting employer costs. According to numbers posted on the PMA website, for the four-week period ending Dec. 19, man-hours paid by employers to the ILWU were 20 percent higher than during the same period in 2013. Yet, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach reported that in December container volume in the port complex was down 1 percent from December 2013. Even though general longshoremen are earning a good deal of money during this crisis as they pick up 20 percent more man-hours, skilled equipment operators are losing work opportunities if the union is purposely refusing to dispatch them, as the PMA has stated. This is playing into the PMA’s strategy, though, as employers would like to see longshoremen who are losing work opportunities to begin pressuring the ILWU negotiators in San Francisco to reach a contract agreement so everyone can go back to work. The main issue that has been holding up the negotiations, at least for the past few weeks, is reportedly that the ILWU wants terminals to mandate that ILWU mechanics inspect each chassis before it leaves the terminals, and that employers give the ILWU mechanics jurisdiction over “red-lined” terminals where the International Association of Machinists does chassis maintenance and repair work. Also, the ILWU wants jurisdiction over off-dock sites operated by the chassis-leasing companies. Those companies are not members of the PMA. They have no contractual relationship with the ILWU and no obligation to hire ILWU mechanics to do M&R work on their chassis. The ILWU mechanics account for about 10 percent of the registered longshoremen in Southern California, so the employers’ strategy is at least in part to stir up dissension in the ILWU by withholding work opportunities from the larger body of longshoremen who have no stake in the chassis issue. While everyone is suffering during this standoff — longshoremen, terminal operators, shipping lines and the thousands of truckers who wait in long lines at congested marine terminals — cargo interests are also paying dearly. More than 100 shipper-related organizations in recent months have reported lost export opportunities, seasonal import merchandise being marked down in price because of late deliveries to the stores, huge charges for the late return of equipment and the significant costs involved in re-routing West Coast-bound shipments to ports on the East Coast and in Canada. Meanwhile, terminal congestion is getting worse by the day. Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, told a West Coast conference of freight forwarders and customs brokers in San Diego in October that terminal operators were utilizing 90 percent of their available land because of the congestion. After 80 percent utilization, service is degraded because there is nowhere to store containers. This results in wasteful, multiple handling of containers. Last weekend, Seroka told the annual conference of the California Trucking Association in Monterey that marine terminal utilization is now running at 95 to 97 percent of the available land. Ships back up at US West Coast ports after night vessel work ends posted on 19th January 2015 01:17:50 PM Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor Ships are backing up rapidly at the major West Coast gateways following a decision by employers to stop working vessels at night in order to concentrate on clearing out congested marine terminal yards. The Marine Exchange of Southern California reported today that 13 container ships were at anchor and awaiting berthing space in Los Angeles-Long Beach. Oakland reported that 7 container ships were at anchor and Tacoma also reported seven container ships at anchor. Although the ports have had vessel backups since last fall, the numbers are now accelerating. Congestion began to mount at West Coast ports last summer due to a spike in container volume, chassis shortages and dislocations and service degradation on the intermodal rail networks. The knockout punch came at the end of October, according to the Pacific Maritime Association, when the International Longshore and Warehouse Union implemented a policy of work slowdowns and refusals to dispatch sufficient skilled labor to perform yard work in order to gain leverage in the ILWU-PMA contract negotiations. Port executives today say that most of the container terminals are now at 90 percent of capacity, or higher, which they say puts the terminals on the brink of gridlock. Unless containers can be removed from the yards, the facilities eventually will reach the point where they can no longer accept more containers from the vessels. Therefore, employers toward the end of 2014 began to reduce the number of work crews, or gangs, assigned to unload vessels on the night shift. They gradually cut back on vessel work at night, and by Wednesday this week, all vessel work at night had been discontinued in Seattle-Tacoma, Oakland and now Los Angeles-Long Beach. Employers said this policy helps the terminals in two ways. With no containers coming off the ships at night, the terminals are able to devote all of their resources on the night shift to cleaning up the yards and making space for containers that will be discharged from the vessels the next morning. Also, according to the PMA, the ILWU for the past 10 weeks has refused to dispatch sufficient skilled labor to operate yard cranes. Therefore, although the ILWU has stated that it makes hundreds of workers available for each shift, the refusal to provide sufficient yard crane operators effectively renders some gangs useless. By eliminating vessel crane work opportunities at night, employers hope there will be more yard crane workers availabe for day and night shifts. “This decision was not made lightly,” said PMA spokesman Steve Getzug. “The ILWU’s ongoing refusal to dispatch sufficient yard crane drivers, the very workers who can best clear congestion at Los Angeles-Long Beach, led to PMA’s decision to halt night vessel work. It is essential to deploy every available crane driver to relieve the crushing congestion on the docks,” he said. The ILWU disputes the employers’ reasoning. Adan Ortega, spokesman for ILWU Local 13 in Southern California, noted that terminals have been steadily reducing vessel gangs from as many as eight on the biggest ships in July to three gangs after July to one gang beginning New Year’s Eve and now to zero on the night shifts in Los Angeles-Long Beach. “By my calculation, that is over an 85 percent reduction in the overall workforce since July. By what stretch of the imagination would anyone think that the congestion that existed before the contract would not worsen?” he said. Carriers knew their vessels would back up at the ports as labor was pulled from ship work at night. In fact, carrier representatives dominate the PMA board of directors, so they factored heavily into the decision-making process. However, employers see this as a last-ditch effort to avoid even more draconian measures, such as an employer lockout such as occurred in the 2002 contract negotiations. Some employers are reportedly considering a lockout to be a viable option as shipping lines and terminal operators continue to bleed cash. Furthermore, by cutting back on work opportunities for longshoremen, especially the skilled equipment operators that earn more money than those dockworkers without such skills, employers hope that the rank-and-file will pressure ILWU negotiators to resolve the outstanding issues with the PMA and reach a settlement. A major issue yet to be resolved concerns ILWU jurisdiction over chassis maintenance and repair. However, the vast majority of longshoremen have no stake in issues involving ILWU mechanics. The lengthy contract negotiations, and now the backlog of vessels at West Coast ports, have proved to be quite costly for shipping lines. Today’s big ships cost more than $100 million each. Carriers estimate they lose more than $40,000 each day that a vessel sits idle. There is also the frustration expressed daily by their customers whose merchandise is sitting on the vessels that are stuck at anchor rather than on the store shelves. Maersk Line spokesman Tim Simpson said the company is focusing on those factors that it can control. Maersk is in constant contact with its customers and vendors, informing them of the steps that are being taken to discharge the containers and move them from the terminals, and providing customers with updated information on delivery times. Likewise, the terminal operators are doing what they can to clear the container backlogs so the vessels can be worked as quickly as possible and the gate operations will be improved, said John Cushing, president of PierPass Inc., which represents the 13 container terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach. In addition to the normal five weekday gates, four night gates and one Saturday gate that are now standard operating procedure in Southern California, most of the terminals have added extra night gates as well as Sunday gates to help relieve congestion being experienced by truckers, Cushing said. In December, the terminals ran 72 additional gates beyond the normally scheduled 10 gates they operated each week under the PierPass program, he said. Carriers are also beginning to look at extraordinary measures to avoid congestion on the West Coast, with at least one line supplementing its regularly-scheduled weekly all-water services to the East Coast with ad-hoc sailings of additional ships, known as extra-loaders, on all-water services to the East Coast. PMA CALLS ON ILWU LEADERS TO STOP WITHHOLDING SKILLED WORKERS; UNION’S ACTION IS CAUSING TERMINAL CONGESTION TO REACH BREAKING POINT posted on 6th January 2015 01:14:39 PM FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contacts: Wade Gates, (415) 591-4048, email@example.com Steve Getzug, (310) 633-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contacts: Wade Gates, (415) 591-4048, email@example.com Steve Getzug, (310) 633-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org Los Angeles (January 2, 2015) – The ILWU clearly subscribes to the “best defense is a good offense” theory. The Union, and Local 13 in particular, has led a sustained campaign over the last two months to withhold critically-important, skilled longshore workers from their shifts on the docks. The qualified yard crane drivers play a vital role by delivering and receiving container loads from truckers. By withholding them, the union has negatively impacted cargo-handling operations throughout Southern California. Union leaders have done this in an attempt to gain leverage on employers in the midst of contentious negotiations for a new coast-wide contract. The Union’s work actions started at the end of October when contract talks began to stall. The PMA estimates that since the ILWU took its unilateral action in Southern California, the average number of shifts for qualified crane operators has dropped from an average of more than 110 per day to under 35 per day, resulting in tens of thousands of containers available for discharge sitting on the docks at the twin ports. Employers put in orders for the number of operators needed, and the ILWU unilaterally cut back those orders by two-thirds. “Removing qualified yard crane drivers from terminal operations is the equivalent of a football coach sending out 10 players and no quarterback. You can’t run the play effectively,” said PMA spokesperson Wade Gates. “The congestion in the terminals is near a breaking point. ‘’ To focus efforts on clearing containers from terminal yards and get them moving to their final destinations, PMA is reducing the number of workers ordered to unload ships on night shifts, thereby avoiding the prospect of creating gridlock that the additional unloading of ships would create. “It makes no sense to maintain the pace of removing containers from ships when there’s no room for them on the terminals,” Gates said. “If a parking lot were full, you would clear out empty spaces before bringing in more cars. The same rule applies here.” Labor orders for the day shifts and night shift yard and gate will remain unchanged. “It’s important to remember an essential principle of management. It’s not solely the number of longshoreman the Union is making available that matters, it’s the type of workers themselves,” Gates said. “Without qualified yard crane drivers who play a critical role in loading and offloading cargo containers from trucks, the congestion problem is made far worse at terminal yards.” “The local leaders will focus on chassis as the problem,” Gates said, “but they are only misdirecting the public away from the core issue that has taken a difficult situation and moved it to the brink, and that’s their decision to withhold critically-important skilled workers from the terminals.” Federal mediation requested in stalled West Coast longshore talks posted on 23rd December 2014 08:39:47 AM JOC Staff Confirming that eight months into negotiations progress has come to a standstill in West Coast longshore talks, employers on Monday requested federal mediators to enter the negotiations. “Outside intervention is necessary to bring the talks to conclusion, particularly given the ongoing impact of ILWU work slowdowns, which have disrupted cargo movement at the major West Coast ports of Tacoma, Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach,” the PMA said in a statement issued late on Monday. “After seven months of negotiations, we remain far apart on many issues,” said PMA spokesman Wade Gates. “At the same time, the union continues its slowdowns, walk-offs and other actions that are having impacts on shippers, truck drivers and other local workers – with no end in sight. It is clear that the parties need outside assistance to bridge the substantial gap between us.” The PMA acknowledged what other port and industry leaders have been openly saying recently, that the slowdowns and ongoing lack of a contract are damaging the West Coast as gateways for import and export container cargo. “The union’s continued actions are creating long-term – even permanent – damage to the West Coast, hastening the continued loss in market share to ports on the U.S. East and Gulf coasts. According to the PMA statement, “ILWU slowdown tactics have reduced productivity at Pacific Northwest ports for more than a month and a half, with drop-offs of 30-40 percent now the norm,” according to PMA analyses of terminal operations. “Intermittent walk-offs have also occurred in Oakland. At the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s busiest, the ILWU restricted dispatching skilled crane operators to operate yard cranes, among the most important jobs to relieve congestion on the docks.” Gates said: “We began negotiations seven months ago by underscoring everyone’s concerns about the West Coast loss of market share, which directly impacts local jobs and economies. We emphasized our commitment to good-faith bargaining and the importance of ensuring that there were no disruptions or other actions that would cause shippers to lose confidence in the future of our ports. Unfortunately, the ILWU’s slowdowns are causing those concerns to grow, and it is clear we need outside intervention to allow us to reach consensus on the issues between us.” The ILWU said it was drafting a statement and will release it on Tuesday. Both sides have to agree to federal mediation before the government will consider entering the talks. The development shows how the negotiations have come full circle, from this spring and summer when the ILWU and PMA released a series of joint statements pledging to keep cargo moving and when the two sides in late August reached a tentative agreement on health care benefits. Since then the talks have gone steadily downhill, with work slowdowns disrupting the ports of Seattle and Tacoma and exacerbating already difficult conditions at Los Angeles and Long Beach tied to a chassis and trucker shortage, bigger ships and larger volumes. ILWU recesses caucus, awaits PMA response to contract proposal posted on 17th December 2014 08:36:17 AM Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor The International Longshore and Warehouse Union today recessed the caucus that it opened on Monday as the union awaited a response from the Pacific Maritime Association on its latest contract proposal. Last Thursday, the PMA presented a new contract offer to the ILWU. Union negotiators reviewed the proposal over the weekend, and on Monday returned it to the PMA with the ILWU’s comments. That is where the negotiations stood today. PMA spokesman Steve Getzug said employers continued to review the document, and they expect to meet again with the ILWU later this week. No date was given. ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said the union caucus completed its work for now, and the approximately 90 representatives were returning home today to their home ports. The caucus can be reconvened on short notice, he said. When the ILWU negotiating team receives an offer that it deems acceptable, the caucus will reconvene. If the caucus approves the document, the tentative contract will be presented to the general membership for a vote. The voting process can take several weeks. PMA said the ILWU work slowdowns that began in late October, and the union’s refusal to dispatch sufficient skilled operators in Los Angeles-Long Beach, continue to harm productivity at U.S.West Coast ports. However, the Marine Exchange of Southern California today reported that there were two container ships at anchor. That was two fewer than on Monday, and the lowest count in recent weeks, which could indicate that container volumes have dropped off considerably now during this slack end-of-the year period. ILWU contract talks held again on Sunday posted on 8th December 2014 10:26:06 AM Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor Negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association were held on Sunday as the two parties completed a weekend of face-to-face talks. Nevertheless, the ILWU maintained its work slowdowns in the Pacific Northwest and in Los Angeles-Long Beach, a PMA spokesman said Sunday. Employers say the work slowdowns are a major factor contributing to port congestion on the West Coast. Containers have backed up on the docks and some vessels must wait at anchor before they can berth. According to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, eight vessels were at anchor Sunday morning, the same number as Saturday. Just one week remains before the ILWU is scheduled to hold a caucus in San Francisco. If the PMA and ILWU can agree upon a tentative contract by Dec. 15, the caucus will direct negotiators whether to accept or reject the agreement. Once a tentative contract is reached, it could take several weeks for the membership of the ILWU and the PMA to ratify the contract. The negotiations have been underway since May. Caucus will determine whether ILWU signs tentative contract or not posted on 5th December 2014 12:02:58 PM Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor LONG BEACH, California — U.S. West Coast contract negotiations could go one of two ways when the International Longshore and Warehouse Union convenes a caucus in San Francisco in the week beginning Dec. 15. If the ILWU leadership believes there is enough substance in what has been negotiated by then, it would seek authorization to sign a tentative contract that would then have to be approved in a vote by the rank and file in the ensuing weeks. Conversely, if the union’s leaders are not comfortable with what they have to present to the caucus, they would decide to return to the negotiating table with the Pacific Maritime Association. That latter option could be devastating. With the Christmas holidays at hand, no significant progress in negotiations could be expected for the rest of the month. Extending the contract negotiations into 2015 would be extremely costly for shipping lines, terminal operators and especially the importers and exporters who depend upon the U.S.West Coast gateways. Cargo interests represented by dozens of trade organizations have been clamoring for a quick resolution to the contract negotiations before the talks even began back in May. More recently, those groups have been calling for federal mediation to expedite an agreement. Since the government will usually call in a mediator only if the PMA and ILWU request one, the prospect of prolonged negotiations could force the hand of employers. For example, the Agriculture Transportation Coalition hosted a meeting of Washington farmers and business leaders in Seattle to call for resolution of a contract and to highlight the economic impact ILWU slowdowns at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are having on the state’s businesses and workers. “Our 100-plus hourly workers are seeing up to a 40-percent reduction in hours from earlier this year,” said Blaine Calaway, vice president of sales, China, at Calaway Trading. “Calculating overtime, that means it could be upwards of a $150 loss a week per person,” he said. Longshoremen up and down the West Coast, however, are not suffering due to the ILWU work slowdowns the PMA says have been underway at all of the major gateways since late October. Man-hours paid to longshoremen in November were 26 percent higher than during November 2013, according to numbers posted on the PMA website for Los Angeles-Long Beach, which handles about 70 percent of the container volume that moves through the West Coast. However, total container volume year-to-date through the nation’s busiest port complex was up only 4 percent compared to last year, according to the PMA. That means longshoremen have been receiving large paychecks while many employees at the hundreds of importing and exporting companies that ship through the West Coast have been hurting. According to the PMA annual report for 2013, the average annual earnings for a full-time Class “A” longshoreman who worked at least 2,000 hours last year were $137,253. The average earnings for an ILWU marine clerk who worked at least 2,000 hours were $154,842, while the average earnings for full-time ILWU foremen in 2013 were $213,120. The average earnings could be higher this year due to the extra hours being worked. “The ILWU has its calendar and its slowdowns — all of which have created worsening economic conditions for people who make a living off cargo moving through the West Coast ports. In recent weeks, the ILWU has not demonstrated any urgency in reaching a fair and balanced agreement any time soon," the PMA said. Trade organizations representing importers, exporters and other businesses that make their livings through port activities say the ILWU has no sense of urgency to reach a contract settlement because longshoremen are profiting from the port congestion that they are in part responsible for. When a new contract is reached, if past is precedent, the wage increase in the new contract will be paid retroactively from the July 1 expiration of the old contract. Shipping lines are incurring millions of dollars of losses due to port congestion and ILWU work slowdowns because their vessels are being thrown off schedule and are forced to wait at anchor for berths. A Port of Tacoma spokeswoman said international containerships are experiencing delays of 12-15 days upon reaching port. The Marine Exchange of Southern California reported Wednesday morning that five containerships were waiting at anchor outside the ports. That was up from three container vessels at anchor on Tuesday. The question that cargo interests are anxious to have answered is what outstanding issues remain after seven months of contract negotiations? The one point that the PMA and ILWU seem to have agreed upon is not to discuss the contents of the contract talks outside of the negotiations, so that question can not be answered at this time. The PMA and ILWU in late August issued a joint press release stating that a tentative agreement had been reached on medical benefits. That was assumed to be one of the most controversial contract issues entering into the negotiations. Terminal operators can not continue indefinitely to pay 26 percent more in labor costs each week than they did in 2013 for handling only a 4 percent increase in cargo. Shippers of perishable agricultural products are suffering even more. AgTC members in the Pacific Northwest report that the port slowdowns have “left produce rotting and crippled their ability to fulfill contracts. They also told stories of having to lay off employees while reducing the hours of others right as the holiday season approaches,” AgTC stated in a press release Wednesday. “These individuals are worried about how to keep food on the table and buy Christmas presents,” Calaway said. The ILWU caucus is set to begin on Dec. 15 and could last up to a week, if necessary. Once a tentative agreement is reached, it could take several weeks to complete the voting process at the local ports. ILWU, PMA contract negotiations resume posted on 3rd December 2014 03:04:15 PM Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Dec 02, 2014 LONG BEACH, California — Contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association resumed this afternoon in San Francisco. Both parties had spent the past day meeting internally to prepare for the return to face-to-face negotiations. Shippers had expressed dissapointment with the Nov. 21 announcement that both sides wouldn't return to the "big table" till today. Meanwhile, West Coast ports continued to whittle away at the backlog of vessels and containers that had accumulated over the Thanksgiving weekend. The Marine Exchange of Southern California on Tuesday issued one of its better updates of recent weeks. Three containerships were at anchor awaiting berth in Los Angeles-Long Beach. That was down from six container vessels at anchor on Monday. The trans-Pacific trade has entered the normal slack period that follows the peak-shipping season in late summer and autumn. Cargo volumes should pick up again in January leading up to the Chinese New Year celebrations in February. Manufacturers in Asia will close out their orders before shutting down for about two weeks during the celebrations. Contract negotiations began in May. The ILWU has been working without a contract since the previous agreement expired on July 1. The ILWU began to engage in work slowdowns in Late October, and those job actions continue to contribute to port congestion at West Coast ports, the PMA stated. The ILWU rejects PMA claims that it is engaging in slowdowns, and blames carriers’ exit of the chassis business and the larger vessels overwhelming marine terminals for port congestion. ILWU, PMA won't get back to "big table" until December posted on 26th November 2014 09:43:33 AM Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Nov 20, 2014 LONG BEACH, California — The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association will not have a contract settlement until December at the earliest because the ILWU is suspending negotiations on coastwide issues until Dec. 2, according to the employers’ organization. ILWU work slowdowns that have contributed to terminal congestion at West Coast ports will likely continue as well because the ILWU turned down a request to extend the previous contract so employers would be able at least to seek arbitration to end the job actions. “Three weeks after initiating a coordinated series of slowdowns that have plagued the major West Coast ports of Tacoma, Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach, the ILWU has now taken its slowdown tactics to the bargaining table,” PMA stated Thursday in press release. Despite “multiple requests” from PMA to continue bargaining, the ILWU on Thursday called a 12-day suspension of “big-table” talks, which refers to negotiations on coastwide issues, the employers stated. Subcommittee talks, which involve mostly issues at the individual port level, will continue, however, the ILWU confirmed. In fact, the ILWU believes that continuing the subcommittee talks can help to expedite an agreement. “Subcommittees focused on specific tasks and problems is the fastest way to make progress on a number of issues that require attention so that further progress can be made by the full committee. The talks are continuing and negotiations are underway this afternoon,” ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said Thursday. Meanwhile, the ILWU work slowdowns that began Oct. 31 in Tacoma and have spread to all major West Coast ports continue, PMA stated. The union is intentionally shorting terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach of critical skilled labor needed to keep the container yards fluid, while crane productivity in the northern ports remains as much as 30 percent below normal, PMA charged. The situation in Southern California is especially damaging to importers with the holiday shopping season just one week away. The largest U.S. port complex handles more than 40 percent of U.S. imports, according to PIERS, the data research arm of the JOC Group. “The ILWU has knowingly made the situation in Southern California worse by failing to dispatch qualified crane operators per longstanding practice -- the same skilled workers who can help to alleviate yard congestion. Union leaders have made clear that they will continue this unilateral change in practice until a new coastwide agreement is reached,” PMA stated. U.S. exporters of apples, potatoes, hay and Christmas trees are experiencing serious delays in the peak of the harvest as they attempt to ship through Seattle and Tacoma, PMA added. PMA attempted to get the ILWU to agree to extension of its previous contract while the big-table negotiations on coastwide issues are suspended for 12 days. The contract has grievance machinery that allows both parties to seek arbitration when there are claims involving health and safety or when a terminal operator charges that longshoremen are engaging in work slowdowns. Arbitration can take a matter of a few hours. All West Coast ports are experiencing congestion and delays, which are being made worse by the ILWU job actions, the PMA said. West Coast congestion expected to worsen over Thanksgiving weekend posted on 26th November 2014 09:34:29 AM Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Nov 25, 2014 Congestion at West Coast ports could get slightly worse over the Thanksgiving weekend as longshoremen and employers take time off to celebrate the holiday. Thanksgiving is a no-work holiday for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. That means terminals will be closed for the day and no cargo-handling will take place. Friday is a work day, although in past years registered longshoremen took that day off as well, so part-time longshoremen, known as casuals, comprise a larger percentage of the work force. In past years, an extended Thanksgiving holiday break was not an issue. West Coast ports were already experiencing slack-season container volumes because almost all of the holiday merchandise had already moved through the ports and was on store shelves ready for Black Friday sales. While it is true that many retailers this year moved merchandise into the U.S. earlier than usual in anticipation of the July 1 expiration of the ILWU contract, West Coast ports have experienced far more congestion than normal due to a range of operational issues such as chassis and driver shortages and intermodal rail service problems. Also, the Pacific Maritime Association has charged that ILWU work slowdowns since late October have made the congestion problems even worse. Therefore, although there should be sufficient merchandise on store shelves for Black Friday, continued port congestion problems could affect the ability of stores to restock after the holiday. Also, importers will be looking ahead to Chinese New Year on Feb. 19, when many factories in Asia close for about two weeks. January will see a spike in shipments as factories move as much merchandise as possible before they shut down for the Chinese New Year celebrations. Trade organizations that represent importers and exporters continue to press the ILWU and PMA to reach agreement on a new contract as quickly as possible. According to the PMA, longshoremen on Oct. 31 began a series of work slowdowns in Seattle, Tacoma and Oakland. Also, the ILWU in Los Angeles-Long Beach has refused to dispatch sufficient skilled workers to operate cargo-handling equipment in the already congested terminals, the PMA stated. The ILWU denies it is engaging in work slowdowns, and blames port congestion on a dozen or so operational issues. Port congestion has also affected inland transportation. Trucking companies continue to report long wait times at the ports, and trucking companies at inland locations report problems due to interruptions in the delivery of intermodal shipments. BNSF Railway beginning on Nov. 20 implemented gate restrictions at Logistics Park Chicago on empty containers destined for the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. Similar gate restrictions have also been implemented in Cicero, Illinois, St. Paul, Minnesota, Denver and Omaha for empties bound for the Pacific Northwest ports. “The reduction in labor productivity at the Pacific Northwest marine terminals continues to impact BNSF’s normal service to and from the ports in Seattle and Tacoma, said BNSF spokeswoman Amy Casas. The PMA on Tuesday said ILWU work slowdowns and a refusal to dispatch enough skilled equipment operators in Southern California continued. The Marine Exchange of Southern California said six container ships were at anchor and awaiting berths on Tuesday. That was down by two ships from Monday. The ILWU reported that subcommittee negotiations were held on Monday in San Francisco, and spokesman Craig Merrilees described the discussions as “very productive and positive.” Both sides agreed to spend Tuesday working independently on various issues as allocated by the subcommittee parties for “big-table” consideration. “If necessary, the subcommittee parties will reconvene Wednesday,” Merrilees said. Potential Chicago drayage shortage awaits LA-LB shippers posted on 26th November 2014 09:30:34 AM Mark Szakonyi, Associate Managing Editor | Nov 25, 2014 2:59PM EST Shippers face another round of woes even after their stalled containers move from congested Los Angeles-Long Beach via intermodal rail to Chicago. The surge intermodal volume from Southern California to Chicago ahead of the holiday shopping season could be too much for Windy City drayage drivers, and some shippers could get hit with demurrage charges because of a lack of trucking capacity. Demurrage fees on containers and chassis range generally between $100 and $175. Drayage operators are getting nervous. Several drayage companies told JOC.com they don’t know when they’ll see an increase in cargo from LA-LB, but they know it hasn’t hit the Windy City yet. Operators say they hope volume steadily builds, instead of spiking and testing their capacity further. The colder weather is already raising concerns of just how much drayage capacity will be available when goods means for post-Black Friday restocking arrive. The severe 2013-2014 winter gridlocked Chicago, with many drayage drivers unable to start their rigs and trains held for weeks. “I’m already hearing of drivers (from other companies) calling off work,” said Mike Uka, operations manager at Uka Trans. “It’s mainly due to weather maintenance issues. People are winterizing their trucks.” There has been more demand for drayage drivers via LoadMatch.com, but that’s largely a result of the shorter work week and cold weather cutting down on capacity, Jason Hilsenbeck, founder and president of LoadMatch, told JOC.com. In a further sign that the slowdown in drayage demand is caused by LA-LB congestion, drivers say they are busy moving loads from Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway terminals but not for Union Pacific and BNSF, the two Class I railroads that connect Southern California to Chicago. “We are lucky demand from CN and CP ramps is keeping up,” said Joe Tovo, president of DNJ Intermodal Services. BNSF said it’s hauling “a good amount” of traffic from LA-LB despite port congestion and other supply chain challenges. UP told JOC.com last month that intermodal shipmemts moving from on-dock intermodal ramps at the largest port in the America could be delayed 24 to 48 hours. The railroad wasn’t immediately available for comment today. Tovo doesn’t expect a drayage pricing war if capacity gets tight when more LA-LB traffic hits Chicago. That’s because the demurrage fees he and other operators would face for not handling contract business offset any gains from grabbing new business. That leaves shippers — even those willing to pay more — will few options if they can’t find drayage drivers to pick up their loads at Chicago-area ramps. “They’re pretty much have get in line and wait,” Tovo said.