Shipments Diverted To East Coast During Contract Dispute Probably Won’t Come Back

Image courtesy of Corey Templeton

Here’s the thing with container ships: you can move them. That’s the point, actually, so it’s not surprising that instead of waiting in long lines to have their cargo unloaded while the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union spent nine months in a contract dispute. Some ships were diverted to the East Coast, and it’s possible that those shipments may never come back to the West Coast.

The two sides reached an agreement with the help of the Secretary of Labor, and it will take a few months both to ratify the contract and to clear the massive backlog of cargo that’s lined up at the West Coast ports. Yet some shippers have moved their business to ports on the East Coast, or in Canada or Mexico, in order to avoid the hassles of going through ports on the West Coast of the United States during the last few months. One company that comprised most of the business for an entire terminal at the port of Portland, for example, is no longer sending shipments to Portland at all.

Call it Frank Sobotka’s Revenge. Yes, that’s a fictional character, but an important symbol of what’s happening here. He was a fictional port workers’ union president in the HBO series “The Wire,” who went to great lengths to keep work from drying up at the port of Baltimore. Indeed, things are booming over in Baltimore, with shipping container volume up 10% since the slowdown began.

San Francisco Business Timesk [Business Journals]

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