Warnings of potential east coast US container port strikes

Photo: Travel mania/ Shutterstock

Talks between US ports and port worker representatives over a new labour contract have broken down this week raising the possibility of strike action at east and Gulf coast terminals.

Dockworker union the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) said it had halted talks with the US Maritime Alliance (USMX) due to concerns about automated technology being used to process trucks at port terminals without union labour.

The ILA said this use of automation violates their agreement with USMX.

Freight forwarder DSV said the suspended talks had led to “potential strike concerns”.

“DSV will continue monitoring the situation for any significant developments,” the company added.

In the past, strike action at US ports has resulted in a spike in airfreight demand as firms look to avoid disruption to shipping services.

However, when strike action takes place at US east coast and Gulf coast ports there is also the option of shipping to the west coast and using intermodal transport to reach planned destinations, which takes some of the pressure from airfreight.

“The ILA cancelled Master Contract talks with USMX after discovering that APM Terminals and Maersk Line are utilizing an Auto Gate system, which autonomously processes trucks without ILA labour,” the union said. “This system, initially identified at the Port of Mobile, Alabama, is reportedly being used in other ports as well.”

The ILA will not meet with USMX until the Auto Gate issue is resolved.

The current six-year labour agreement covering 45,000 port workers runs until September 30. The ILA has warned that members will not work past the contract expiry date.

Last year, there were concerns that a breakdown in talks between port worker unions and terminals on the US west coast could also lead to strike action.

However, the two parties eventually came to an agreement in June.


US port workers reach tentative agreement

US retailers brace for peak season box port disruption



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Damian Brett

Damian Brett
I have been writing about the freight and logistics industry since 2007 when I joined International Freighting Weekly to cover the shipping sector. After a stint in PR, I have gone on to work for Containerisation International and Lloyds List - where I was editor of container shipping - before joining Air Cargo News in 2015. Contact me on [email protected]