West Coast Labor Agreement Leads to Surge in Imports

The National Retail Federation (NRF) announced this week that a surge in productivity following labor negotiations at U.S. West Coast ports has reduced cargo congestion at those ports and brought U.S. import cargo volumes back to normal. The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the major shipping lines and terminal operators, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents port workers at 29 West Coast ports, agreed on a new five-year labor contract in February 2015. The previous six-year contract expired on July 1, 2014, and during the subsequent months of tense negotiations, a significant cargo backlog developed at ports along the West Coast, where most Asian imports enter the country.

Data from Global Port Tracker, cited in the NRF announcement, shows that U.S. ports handled a record 1.73 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) in March, an increase of 33.1 percent over the previous year. This surge is explained largely from the expanded productivity of West Coast ports following the announcement of a new contract. Volumes also increased at other ports nationwide as shippers tried to avoid delays along the West Coast. Overall, volumes at major U.S. ports were estimated at 1.55 million TEUs, up 8.1 percent from 2014 levels, and May volumes are forecast at 1.56 million TEUs, a 5.4 percent increase over 2014. The data from Global Port Tracker covered the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle/Tacoma, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami, and Houston.

TIA is glad to announce that the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association and a leading voice in Washington, D.C. on business policy, will be participating in a panel for the 2015 TIA 3PL Policy Forum. For more information on this event, please click here. For additional information on trends in international cargo volumes, or to participate in TIA’s International Logistics Conference, contact Will Sehestedt (sehestedt@tianet.org, 703-299-5713).