ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said that the federal mediator is now speaking to each party separately, according to City News Service (CNS), in an effort to end the still-contentious and ongoing negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and their employer, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).
According to CNS, as many as 27 ships were anchored outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach Friday morning, with just as many ships at berth, said POLA spokesman Phillip Sanfield. Sanfield relayed his worry that companies like Walmart, Target and others will take their business elsewhere to Canadian, Gulf Coast and even East Coast ports.
Lee Peterson, POLB spokesman, echoed Sanfield’s concern. He said in a statement that once the dispute is resolved, “we would hope to try and win back the business we are losing, but it will be difficult.”
According to Sanfield, the shipping yards are 95 percent full of cargo, reaching well beyond the port’s 80 percent ideal. While a glimmer of hope can be seen just beyond the ship-cluttered horizon, with cargo from Asia likely to slow for approximately two weeks due to the observance of the Lunar New Year holiday on February 20, negotiations between the PMA and ILWU need to be resolved before any catch-up work can begin to clear up the docks.
The PMA suspended vessel loading and unloading at the ports Thursday, an action taken in response to the PMA’s accusation that the ILWU have been causing the port-crippling slowdowns.
The ILWU has denied the coordination of an effort to slow down port operations and fired back, saying that their employer has not given them enough training opportunities in order to provide enough qualified workers. According to CNS, the ILWU has also blamed the influx of industry-wide changes, such as larger ships dropping off more and picking up more cargo than ever before, on the slowdowns.
The suspension of vessel operations, ILWU slowdowns and ongoing negotiations are affecting all West Coast ports, not just Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to CNS. The ports are at a “breaking point,” stated Sanfield.