News Column

Retailers Fear Port Strike Would Stall Holiday Shipments

Aug. 28, 2012

Donna Goodison, Boston Herald

container ship

A potential strike by longshoremen from Maine to Texas threatens to disrupt retailers' shipments before the busiest shopping time of the year.

The National Retail Federation yesterday called on the International Longshoremen's Association and U.S. Maritime Alliance to resume contract talks so retailers won't be forced to divert cargo as they head into the holiday season.

The longshoremen's contract is set to expire Sept. 30, but without an immediate resolution, retailers would be forced to make costly contingency plans within the next week to meet holiday promotion deadlines, according to the NRF. A strike or lockout would affect imports and exports at all East Coast and Gulf Coast ports.

"The fact that talks have broken down, and the ILA has stated that they will likely strike on Oct. 1, is pretty significant," said Jonathan Gold, the NRF's vice president of supply chain and customs policy. "If they strike, the ports shut down, and nothing moves in and out."

Local longshoremen union representatives couldn't be reached for comment, and the alliance, which represents container carriers, employers and port associations, declined comment. Dockworkers walked away from three days of contract talks Wednesday.

"We are hopeful the two parties can reach consensus on a new master agreement for East and Gulf Coast ports before it impacts cargo shipments," Massport spokeswoman Lisa Langone said.

The port of Boston accounts for $2 billion in economic impact annually and more than 34,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to Massport.

Any cessation of work likely would result in cargo shipments being diverted to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and trucked down, while Asian shipments would be diverted to the West Coast and transported by truck or rail.

Source: (c)2012 the Boston Herald Distributed by MCT Information Services

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