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Port strike threats said minimal to steel mart

Keywords: Tags  strike, labor negotiations, ILA, ports, steel, finished steel, Catherine Ngai

NEW YORK — A potential strike that would affect 14 ports on the East and Gulf Coasts might leave the steel industry unscathed as discussions involving break-bulk shipments remain positive, sources said.

The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) union is currently in labor and wage contract negotiations with the U.S. Maritime Alliance. If negotiations aren’t successful, unionized workers could walk off the job when contracts expire Sept. 30, leaving hundreds of thousands of tons of cargo unmoved on the docks. The union last held a major strike in 1977.

But sources handling finished steel don’t seem particularly anxious.

"What we’re hearing is that there’s a lot of optimism, particularly as it regards to break-bulk and bulk commodities," one industry source said. "Whether there are any challenges with negotiations on the container side, I don’t know. (But) containers, for the most part, (aren't) the preferred steel shipping method."

Traditional steel-heavy ports on the East Coast include Houston; Mobile, Ala.; New Orleans; New York; and New Jersey.

A spokeswoman for the Port of Mobile told AMM that she isn’t concerned about a potential strike, as the union in Mobile has been working with the port.

"We haven’t had any concerns, and we don’t anticipate any issues down here," she added.

There is "guarded optimism," a trader said in echoing that sentiment.

"Any possibility of a work stoppage is a concern for anyone who imports or exports through any of the ports," the trader said. "From what I gather ... this is something that’s particularly geared toward containers. Containers of steel by itself aren’t that great a deal (as) the predominance of delivery is still break-bulk."

The next round of negotiations is scheduled for July 18.

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