As expected, West Coast ports continued to operate normally last week after a six-year contract between dock workers and the terminal operators and container lines they work for expired. Both parties said they expect operations to continue at all 29 ports as long as they remain at negotiating table.

While the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) chose not to extend their existing contract when it expired at 5 pm Tuesday, they did issue a joint statement saying they expect cargo to continue moving as usual while the remain in talks. The talks started May 12, but the two sides reportedly can’t agree on how they will share the cost of a new tax on ILWU’s high-end health care plans. The tax takes effect in 2018.



Trades groups continue to urge both sides to reach an agreement as soon as possible to avoid disruptions to port services that occurred in September, 2002 when PMA effectively closed the ports for 11 days by locking out workers they claimed ILWU had staged a work slowdown. The ports only reopened after President Bush obtained a court order that sent the parties back to the negotiating table, where they reached an agreement six weeks later.



Congestion has increased in recent weeks at the port of Los Angeles as importers pull forward deliveries to ensure timely delivery of back-to-school and fall merchandise. At the end of May, year-to-date container traffic was running 8.21 percent ahead of the same period a year earlier and port officials said they expect that trend continued in June. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle 40 percent of the nation's container imports.