The current marine container logjams at terminals and containership backups on the West Coast have caused grave concern for all stakeholders in the supply chain. In recent weeks there have been anywhere from 16 to 35 vessels laying-to awaiting berth availability at LA/Long Beach and other West Coast Ports. The matter has escalated to the President’s desk with Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Commerce Secretary Penny Prizker weighing in on the labor union/maritime employers side of the problem. The causal factors for this situation that began last July appear to stem from stalled negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) resulting in allegations of slowdowns and lockouts.
Other factors compounded this catastrophic port congestion, and even if labor issues are resolved, these operational factors will continue to cause serious problems on the West Coast. During the congestion period there have been many actions taken by the parties, which may give rise to legal and regulatory remedies pursuant to the Shipping Act of 1998, as amended. Additionally, the 2015-16 contract negotiation period is in play at this time and terms in service contracts between shippers and ocean carriers will receive more in-depth scrutiny in anticipation of the congestion issues that have surfaced in recent months. See our recent legal alert.