Port terminal operators at West Coast Ports have escalated their tactics in the dispute with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, shutting down ship unloading operations for four of the next five days.  Unloading was also halted last weekend (see “West Coast Port Congestion Gets Worse”), which means that ships are being unloaded only four days of the current ten day period. 

Yard, gate, and rail operations will continue during the unloading shutdown at operators discretion, according to a statement by the port terminal operators organization Pacific Maritime Association. 

PMA members are now halting unloading on days when crews receive premium pay in retaliation for a slowdown by union workers during negotiations. Pay premiums are required on Thursday and Monday as holidays (Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’s Birthday, respectively), and Saturday and Sunday as weekend days.  “PMA members have concluded that they will not conduct vessel operations on those dates, paying full shifts of ILWU workers such high rates for severely diminished productivity while the backlot of cargo at West Coast ports grows,” the organization’s statement said. 

PMA members stopped unloading ships at nights at many ports in mid-January arguing that there was no dock space for containers, according to a statement by the union.  The union has released images of docks with open space (such as the image accompanying this article) to rebut the claim, and argued in a statement released Wednesday that the terminal operators, primarily non-U.S. corporations, are “trying to sabotage negotiations.” 

The problems appear to be accelerating, hopefully toward a resolution rather than a complete lockout.  As we’ve noted, these port slowdowns affect any merchandise manufactured in Asia and imported into the U.S., including some comics and graphic novels, games and toys.