US West Coast Ports on Downward Spiral

The US West Coast ports are seeing significant drops in their monthly cargo volumes, unanimously attributed to the lingering congestion brought on by the ongoing contract dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The ports of Seattle and Tacoma saw their combined container volumes fall 13 percent in January, continuing a trend that started in November.

The Puget Sound gateway handled 226,906 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) last month. Containerized imports plunged 21 percent to 89,982 TEUs, while exports dipped 7 percent to 81,213 TEUs. Domestic volumes to Alaska and Hawaii fell 7 percent to 55,711 TEUs.

The Port of Long Beach saw its container volumes drop by 18.8 percent in January. Overall, 429,490 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of containerized cargo moved through the Port of Long Beach in January. Imports numbered 213,667 TEUs, a 23.5 percent decline from January 2014. Exports slid 19.6 percent to 98,462 TEUs. Empty containers declined 7.6 percent to 117,361 TEUs.

Earlier this week, the Port of Oakland saw its January cargo volumes drop by 32%.

The U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez met with the representatives of the ILWU and the PMA in San Francisco on Tuesday, to urge the sides to settle the differences at the bargaining table. Perez met with both parties again on Wednesday.

The 29 West Coast ports have resumed operations Tuesday, after the PMA suspended terminal operations across the U.S. West Coast for four days.

”We have been strongly urging the two parties to come to an agreement on a new contract, so that we can clear the backlog of cargo on the docks and the ships anchored off the coast,” said Port of Long Beach Chief Executive Jon Slangerup. ”We are encouraged by recent progress through Federal mediation and are hopeful that the contract will be signed soon, so that the Port complex can focus on returning operations to a normal pace.”

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