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West Coast dockworkers return to job

Keywords: Tags  Port of Los Angeles, Port of Long Beach, labor dispute, ILWU, ferrous scrap exports, Frank Haflich

LOS ANGELES — An eight-day labor dispute that pretty much halted container traffic out of two major West Coast ports came to a close late Tuesday with what appears to be only a short-term impact on ferrous scrap exports and little to no effect on steel imports.

Dockworkers were due to return to work Wednesday as negotiators for clerical workers represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) reached a tentative agreement with employers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., according to a spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles.

While ILWU Local 63 has only 800 members, about 10,000 dockworkers vowed to honor the clerical workers’ picket lines, putting a halt to containerized shipments for more than a week.

Although a ratification vote hasn’t yet been held, the outlook for passage of a new agreement was optimistic, the Los Angeles port spokesman said.

“We’re expecting that it will be ratified,” he said.

Most market participants said scrap trade at the ports appeared to suffer little or no damage during the disruption, despite earlier concern from inventory-lean Asian mills in particular ().

“We expect to make up for that in two days,” a scrap industry source said of delayed export shipments, noting that exporters who tend to hold their shipments until the end of the month may have been affected to a greater degree than some others. “Everyone will get caught up pretty quickly.”

Roughly 50,000 tons per week of containerized scrap is shipped to overseas customers from the ports during normal conditions, according to one estimate, although demand lately has been slower than normal due to the global steel downturn.

Since the strike didn’t affect the ports’ bulk freight terminals, importers and buyers of imported steel reported no impact from the walkout.

“Our bulk cargo business was unaffected,” said a steel importer.

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