Don’t Strike Out on the West Coast!
The International Longshore Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association began talks May 12 to negotiate the contract set to end June 30. Each side has large demands to be met before an agreement can be made. So the U.S. watches on, hoping not to see the 10-day strike that left dozens of ships idle in 2002.
Be sure to plan your emergency shipments in advance to avoid congestion on the West Coast. You have a few options to devise the contingency plan that best fits your needs should there be a strike:
Stick to the Plan
You don’t necessarily need to reroute less urgent shipments, and this will be the least expensive option. Remember many carriers plan to institute surcharges if the strike occurs. Carriers will be hesitant to reroute shipments anyway unless a lengthy unrest is expected.
Early Bird Gets the Worm
Whenever possible, you should schedule shipments to reach port before June 30. Concurrently, account for additional time as the last of June approaches because many others will be taking advantage of the same opportunity.
Change Modes of Transit
Urgent shipments can be transitioned to air shipments with the help of airport logistics. You can also use a sea to air option for a smaller cost impact.
Reroute to Another Port
USWC Vancouver or Prince Rupert. Prince Rupert is a possible Inland Port Intermodal gateway but is only serviced by the Canadian National Railway. Capacity may be tight and stack trains are limited. There is no transload facility, either. Vancouver is an option, but there is currently a backlog of 1 to 2 weeks.
Mexican gateway at Ensenada, Manzanillo, or Lazaro Cardenas. These are small ports without the ability to handle large-capacity operations. Only Lazaro Cardenas has inland rail options, which have very limited access to the U.S.
USEC & Gulf gateway. While carriers can make it through Panama and Suez, it is likely the International Longshoremen’s Association will refuse to work vessels that were meant to unload at the USWC due to their brotherhood of workmanship. Also, carriers might discharge cargo at main transship points of Panama, Cartagena, and Colon and declare force majeure. Customers will pay the incremental cost to move their containers to each destination if force majeure is declared.
USEC Halifax or Montreal. Though Halifax is an option, it only utilizes the CN, which has limited capacity. Montreal, however uses the CN and Canadian Pacific Railroad and is a better option for IPI cargo. But Montreal’s low-water tides can create problems for larger vessels. It makes planning for carriers extremely complicated.
Be ready to consider several different modes of transportation for your cargo to ensure a timely arrival no matter the port of arrival.
Though there are many choices, it is unlikely any action will be as effective as keeping the ports open. So, let’s root for an agreement instead and plan for the worst incase.
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