Friday, February 13, 2015

Closing America's Ports

A dispute between dock unions and port authorities in the United States has led to the almost complete shut-down of a quarter of the United States' international trade. Seaports on the west coast of the U.S., which normally process around 25% of the country's international trade, are being closed for the next four days.

Marine Traffic shows a large number of cargo vessels off the coast of Los Angeles, presumably waiting for the port to open again. I'm not sure how many container ships are usually waiting outside the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports but the Financial Times reports that at times last week there were 20 container ships waiting outside the ports, "compared with the normal one or two".

The Pacific Maritime Association last week temporarily suspended the unloading of ships, arguing that they needed to clear a backlog of containers in the overflowing yards. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union responded by hiring a plane and releasing aerial photos of what appear to be many empty yards.

The PMA are refusing to open the ports from Thursday through to Monday because they don't want to pay overtime to the dock workers. The port owners claim this is in response to the fact that the dock workers have significantly slowed their rate of work over the last few months.

Marine Traffic shows a large number of container ships are also apparently waiting off the coast near the ports of Oakland, and Seattle & Tacoma.
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