February 12, 2015 | Industry Insights

NEWS ALERT: PMA to Suspend Vessel Operations Again at West Coast Port Terminals

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The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) announced today that vessel operations will be suspended at U.S. West Coast ports. The seaports, which handle some $1 trillion in trade per year, will close on Thursday, 2/12; Saturday, 2/14; Sunday, 2/15; and Monday, 2/16. However, yard, gate and rail operations will continue at terminal operators’ discretion.

According to American Shipper, PMA spokesman Wade Gates said the longshoremen are continuing slowdowns “that will soon bring West Coast ports to gridlock. What they’re doing amounts to a strike with pay, and we will reduce the extent to which we pay premium rates for such a strike.”

“In light of ongoing and costly ILWU slowdowns, PMA members will temporarily suspend premium-pay weekend and holiday vessel operations on four upcoming dates, while yard, gate and rail operations will continue at terminal operators’ discretion,” the PMA said in an announcement Wednesday afternoon.

PMA, which represents about 70 shipping companies, has accused dockworkers of conducting slowdowns, walk-offs and “other actions at key ports, aggravating congested conditions and disrupting cargo movement” in a bid to influence the ongoing contract negotiations.

The union denied the claims and said “cessation of vessel operations was initiated by employers, and is NOT a strike by workers.”

“This is an effort by the employers to put economic pressure on our members and to gain leverage in contract talks,” ILWU President Robert McEllrath said. “The union is standing by ready to negotiate, as we have been for the past several days.”

The shipping firms said it was not logical to pay union workers premium holiday and weekend rates “for severely diminished productivity while the backlog of cargo at West Coast ports grows.”

Sources: American Shipper, CNBC

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