Shippers mull contingency plans over possible US east coast port strike
RETAILERS and other shippers in the United States are mulling contingency plans in the face of a brewing dockside labour dispute which could shut down container terminals this autumn. Wednesday, 20.Jun.2012, 01:27 (GMT+3)
RETAILERS and other shippers in the United States are mulling contingency plans in the face of a brewing dockside labour dispute which could shut down container terminals this autumn.
Building up inventories is one of the most favoured options, an unidentified logistics company told London's International Freighting Weekly. Most speculation centres on the re-routing cargo to the west coast, according to American Shipper.
The current contract between the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) and companies that operate marine terminals on the US east and Gulf coasts has ILA and the US Maritime Alliance expires at the end of September.
The ILA opposes automated cargo handling gear replacing its members. It also insists that the ILA continue to maintain and repair chassis even as ocean carriers put the equipment in pools or turn it over to third-party managers. The union also demands that marine companies do a better job of monitoring overweight containers for safety and royalty reasons.
Another option being considered is to order shipments earlier, especially for sales, seasonal and popular merchandise, and store them in warehouses as insurance in case ocean transport is disrupted, said Ronald Marotta, vice president of Yusen Logistics (Americas).
"People are trying to plan as best they can for all contingencies" to protect their companies, he said.
West railway BNSF is preparing itself for a freight bonanza if major cargo diversion to the west coast takes place because of an east coast strike, said Yusen Logistics sales chief John Lanigan. "It's part of what we're building into our contingency planning for the third and fourth quarters."
Limited Brands, the parent of Victoria Secret and five other fashion and personal care outlets, is considering moving imports through west coast ports or using air freight if there is a strike or lockout, Rick Jackson, executive vice president of Mast Global Logistics, said. He did not give a deadline for when the company would begin shifting freight from normal trade lanes.