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All eyes on the US West Coast as port labour negotiations begin

Talks began this week between shipping lines and the 22,400-strong workforce of dockworkers from 29 ports along the United States’ West Coast

The contract negotiation talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association taking place in San Francisco, and covering topics such as pay and benefits, will be a pivotal moment in the post-COVID planning of North American supply chains as demand continues to grow whilst port capacity and productivity levels struggle to keep pace. The contract between the two unions is in place to protect US jobs whilst also offering protection to importers and exporters.

The negotiation of the new contract come as the current contract is set to expire on June 30th, however, ahead of the talks the results of a self-commissioned study by the Pacific Maritime Association have split opinion as it found that automated terminals at LA and Long Beach ports were more environmentally friendly, more efficient and could handle 44% higher capacity than non-automated terminals - a concerning statement for the 22,400 workers from 29 West Coast ports that has since been disputed by the workers' union.

The timing of the talks is crucial as demand increases towards summer as the US' peak shipping season approaches. With supply chains under growing pressure and congestion and delays a common challenge, the US supply chain finds itself on a knife-edge, running the risk of disputes during the negotiations which could lead to work 'slowdowns', an eventuality that would likely cause a vast increase in the number of vessels waiting offshore, which currently sits at 30.

We will keep this page up to date with the latest develpments, whilst aiming to mitigate any potential disruption to your supply chains.

If you have any questions about your North American shipments or would like to discuss alternative supply chain planning, please contact our dedicated team here.

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