On January 29th at 11AM EST, one thousand longshoremen at the port of New York walked out, violating the no strike provision of their contract, and effectively halting operations at the third busiest port in the United States. Citing the interference of the Waterfront Commission in their collective bargaining agreement, the longshoremen have returned to work giving more confidence back to shippers with cargo pending at the port.
Coming on the heels of a difficult year on the West Coast, shippers are intolerant of shut downs and work stoppages that occur due to labor disputes. Diverting cargo is a costly and painful process that many shippers using the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach discovered recently. This is, actually, one of the reasons the ILA and United States Maritime Alliance has started talks regarding the expiration of their contract in 2018. In an attempt to prevent the issues faced in 2014 and 2015, the East Coast ports want an amicable solution in place well in advance.
When ports shut down, due to weather or labor, the best defense to delays is a good solid plan in place by your broker to reroute cargo. Being abreast of issues coming and exploiting secondary ports can alleviate many of the delays. As this was an unforeseen issue that took even the union leaders by surprise, most of the preparation available to brokers would have been for naught. This is a great learning experience for us and Lisa Ragan Customs Brokerage is working diligently to find and implement solutions for cases such as this one. We refuse to acquiesce to delays and instead seek to use our cutting edge technology to keep the flow of freight and clearance from stalling under both labor pressure and weather. With two years to go before the original contract expires, we have time to develop and test alternate paths for clearance and import so we and our clients are solidly prepared for each and every coming challenge.