Friday, January 16, 2015

PMA Halts Night Ops at LA-Long Beach Complex

By Mark Edward Nero

Operations at the adjoining ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are approaching “complete gridlock,” and crews will no longer be assigned to load and unload cargo ships overnight at the two ports, according to the Pacific Maritime Association.

The move is in response to actions set in motion by the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, the PMA said Jan. 12.

The PMA, which has been engaged in contract negotiations with the ILWU the past eight months, claims that the union has orchestrated a situation that is seriously exacerbating congestion problems at the largest ports on the West Coast.

“Since late October 2014, the ILWU has crippled what were fully productive terminals in the Pacific Northwest and Oakland, and exacerbated a difficult congestion issue at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by intentionally withholding dozens of essential skilled workers each shift for the past 10 weeks,” the Maritime Association said in a statement.

On Jan. 5, the US Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service said it was joining the talks to help both sides reach an agreement, however the PMA says that even with federal help, talks have gone nowhere so far.

“Since the mediator joined the talks, no further agreements have been reached and ILWU work slowdowns have continued to the point where many terminals are in peril of complete gridlock,” according to the PMA.

The ILWU, however, contends that the congestion has been caused by “managerial mistakes,” including a lack of dock space for containers and shortages of chassis. The union also has criticized the cancelling night shifts and reducing bulk operations, saying it will do nothing to ease congestion.

“The PMA appears to be abusing public ports and putting the economy at risk in a self-serving attempt to gain the upper hand at the bargaining table, and create the appearance of a crisis in order to score points with politicians in Washington,” the union said in a Jan. 13 statement.