Risk Center

ILWU negotiations affect port wait times

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) continue to work behind closed doors to reach a new labor agreement after the previous agreement expired on July 1. While the expiration has opened the door to potential port disruptions in the form of lockouts or strikes, neither side has given any indication that a disruption could take place in the coming weeks.

Despite the absence of open hostility, shippers continue to move cargoes to alternative ports considering the uncertain shipping environment. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have seen an increase in waiting times and vessel counts in the last few weeks representing an increase in traffic; however, cargo volumes continue the trend of moving to East and Gulf Coast ports

The uncertainty around the ongoing negotiations has resulted in oscillating wait times at the port of Los Angeles-Long Beach. Overall, North American West Coast ports have seen a slight increase in waiting times on average compared to the previous week.

East Coast Ports combine for the longest waiting times although the combined waiting time has fallen slightly compared to last week. The Gulf Coast ports of Houston and Mobile have continued to see heavy congestion while the Port of Mobile saw its waiting times fall.

chart of U.S. port wait times
Figure 1: Port congestion data for July 4-July 10; Source: Everstream Analytics.

Customers should use Everstream Analytics’ real-time congestion data to prepare for a potential strike action and develop contingency plans that include securing emergency air freight capacity, re-routing to less congested ports, shifting land delivery routes, or leveraging advance ordering. Current rail congestion issues and physical storage shortages highlight the importance of tracking the latest rail metering measures and potential embargoes, as well as seeking alternative ground options via less-congested rail hubs or trucking.

Companies using smaller, less congested ports in contingency plans should anticipate that shorter waiting times could quickly increase due to limited capacity, particularly as customers prepare by booking shipments further in advance. Ports including New Orleans, Mobile, Houston, and Miami are also at risk of being disrupted during the Atlantic hurricane season through November 30. Everstream Analytics is currently monitoring a potential Tropical Depression in the Gulf of Mexico that will bring rain and flooding to ports along the Gulf Coast.

Contact us to learn how we can give you a complete view of the risks affecting your end-to-end supply chain and what you can do to mitigate them.

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