NEW YORK The
International Longshoremens Association (ILA) and the
U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX) are continuing labor contract
negotiations with just days to avert a strike that would affect
containerized cargo along the East and Gulf coasts.
George Cohen, director of the
Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FCMS), has called
for a meeting "in advance of the Dec. 29 expiration of the
contract extension," according to the FCMS website, but even
though both parties have agreed to participate, the meeting has
yet to take place, a union spokesman told AMM
A spokesman for the FCMS and a
spokeswoman for the USMX declined to comment on the state of
A strike by some 15,000 ILA
members would affect container shipments at 14 ports, hitting
all metals-related industriesincluding nonferrous and
ferrous scrapthat rely on that form of transportation (
amm.com, Dec. 21).
"A shutdown would wreak havoc on
manufacturers, retailers, farmers and others who depend on the
ports to move their supplies and products," the USMX said on
its website, listing Minneapolis-based commodities trader
Cargill Inc. as among those likely to be affected by the
"In New York and New Jersey, for
example, a shutdown would result in $100 million in lost
revenue a month for railroads, truckers and other port-related
transportation industries that handle the more than 250,000
containers that move through the port each month," the USMX
A 10-day lockout at West Coast
ports in 2002 cost the U.S. economy an estimated $1 billion a
day, according to the USMX, an alliance of container carriers,
major marine terminal operators and port associations on the
East and Gulf coasts.
Ports are putting contingency
plans in place in the event of a strike.
The Port of Houston Authority
said on its website that it is "coordinating with U.S. Customs
and Border Protection to provide for extended work hours on
Dec. 26, 27 and 28 at both container terminals to accommodate
customers needing to clear cargo from the terminals in advance
of the anticipated labor action.
"If (an) agreement is not
reached prior to the deadline, container terminals will be
closed until the parties reach resolution at the national
level," the port authority said.
A statement on the Port Newark
Container Terminal website encouraged customers to "pick up
import reefer containers this week prior to any possible work