ILA president urges members not to shut ports down
International Longshoremen’s Association President Harold Daggett said he will seek help from Congress in union disputes with the South Carolina Ports Authority and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.
BY CHRIS DUPIN |MONDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2017 (AMERICAN SHIPPER)
Harold Daggett, the president of the International Longshoremen’s Association, is asking his members not to shut down East and Gulf Coast ports, but instead is seeking an emergency meeting with members of the U.S. Congress to discuss issues of concern to the union.
Daggett said he was responding to a call last week by union members who wanted to shut down ports and march in Washington.
The members calling for the port shutdown highlighted two issues – their unhappiness with the fact that many jobs at marine terminals in South Carolina are held by state workers rather than ILA members, as well as the control of the labor force in the Port of New York and New Jersey exercised by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor.
“We hear your anger, we hear your frustration and we intend to address it,” said Daggett in a statement. “With a delegation of ILA leaders, I will be heading to Washington immediately to seek help for our industry from Congress.
“I strongly urge all ILA members not to engage in any work stoppage or any other violation of the current master contract,” he added. “Let the leadership of the ILA meet Congress in Washington. I am confident Congress will understand the urgency of our issues and resolve any and all problems.”
Kenneth Riley, ILA vice president and president of ILA Local 1422 in Charleston, S.C., who was one of those calling for the port shutdown and march in Washington, said the goal was to “wake up the decision makers and force them to focus on our ports. We are protesting damage to the nation’s economy that is caused by the kind of interference that President Trump promised to stop.”
But the possibility of a port shutdown had created an outcry from shipper groups such as the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, the National Retail Federation, and the National Industrial Transportation League.
In addition, the United States Martiime Alliance (USMX), the group that represents employers in master contract negotiations with the ILA, said the planned shutdown is forbidden under the contract, and that “if the ILA engages in any unilateral walkout, USMX will enforce the contractual rights of its members to the fullest.”
Alliances ensure US importers’ access to small ports
Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Feb 27, 2017 5:00AM EST, JOC.com
The restructuring of vessel-sharing alliances and deployment of mega-ships in the trans-Pacific trades allows US ports large and small to gain services, benefitting importers that use the top five load centers, but also use smaller gateways to feed their distribution centers.
The import trade from Asia is the largest US trade lane, and the only lane in which ports on the West, Gulf, and East coasts are not severely limited by geographical location in competing for cargo. By contrast, for example, West Coast ports have little chance of competing for market share in the trans-Atlantic trade.
The US import trade from Asia is much larger than other trades and it has opened up opportunities for non-load-center ports such as Baltimore, Boston, Jacksonville, Miami, Wilmington, North Carolina, Mobile, and New Orleans to carve out shares ranging from 1.4 percent to 18 percent of Asian imports on their respective coasts, according to an analysis by PIERS, a sister division of JOC.com.
The implication of this trend for retailers and other importers who ship to various parts of the United States is that the restructuring of vessel-sharing alliances from four smaller groupings to three larger alliances beginning on April 1 gives the alliance members opportunities to offer a weekly service or two to the non-load-center ports to serve niche markets. Under the five-corners supply-chain strategy that many national retailers follow, the major load centers are the US-Canadian Pacific Northwest, Los Angeles-Long Beach, Houston, Savannah-Charleston, and New York-New Jersey-Norfolk.
Mega-ships with capacities of 8,000 to 14,000 twenty-foot-equivalent units will soon dominate the US trades now that the Panama Canal expansion project has been completed and the big ships can be deployed to all three coasts. Of course, the mega-ships will discharge most of their cargo at the five-corners ports, and these are usually referred to as the “winners” in this era of big ships. However, there seems to be room in the trans-Pacific for multiple ports. For example, the Gulf Coast is increasing its share, albeit from a small base, of US imports from Asia. Carriers now offer four services each to Houston and Mobile and one to New Orleans.
This development prompted Asaf Ashar, research professor (emeritus) and independent consultant at the National Ports and Waterways Institute, to say that the West Coast’s loss of market share in Asian imports in recent years may be driven as much by diversion of some cargo to Gulf ports as to East Coast ports. The Gulf Coast ports quadrupled their market share of Asian ports since 2005 to 2.85 percent, according to the PIERS numbers.
Yet West Coast ports face an even greater threat to the supremacy in the Asian import trade that they have enjoyed the past 20 years than either the East or Gulf ports. Canada’s Pacific Coast ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert have been attracting Asian imports that would have otherwise moved through the West Coast. Ten years ago, Prince Rupert did not even have a container terminal, and Vancouver relied on the US market for about 2 percent of its cargo. Today, the US market generates about two-thirds of Prince Rupert’s container volume and US cargo accounts for about 24 percent of Vancouver’s container volume. The Canadian ports together handle about 4.4 percent of US imports from Asia, according to University of California at Berkeley professor of industrial engineering Rob Leachman.