Port of LA boss: Good Friday work stoppage was ‘a call to action’

Date: Thursday, April 13, 2023
Source: FreightWaves

Cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles are rebounding just as fears of port labor disruptions are escalating.

On Wednesday, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka announced a rise in imports in March versus February, with even higher volumes expected in the months ahead. At the same time, he said “there has been widespread concern over the ongoing West Coast labor contract negotiations and those concerns intensified last week.”

The previous labor contract between the ILWU port workers’ union and the Pacific Maritime Association, representing terminals, expired on July 1, 2022. “This contract negotiation has been going on as long as it ever has. Folks want to put this thing to rest,” Seroka said during a news conference attended by a record number of journalists.

Bad news on Good Friday

Cargo operations at terminals of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were halted during the Thursday night shift, coinciding with a monthly meeting of ILWU Local 13, as well as during the day shift on Good Friday.

“What we saw last week was a call to action for everyone to hunker down and get this deal done as quickly as possible,” said Seroka.

“Good Friday typically sees a lower volume of activity during the morning shift, so the impact to operations was relatively minor. However, this situation captured the nation’s attention — and rightly so.”

He said “there are no contingency plans” for a more extended shutdown, should it ever happen. He maintained that it wouldn’t.

“I don’t see a widespread labor disruption at any time in the future. But again, all eyes are focused on us. We’ve been through 11 months of negotiations. It’s time to cut through all of these very challenging discussions and get to an agreement.

“Simply put, there’s no bigger priority right now than this contract agreement. This contract is the biggest thing on our industry’s collective plate.”

Asked by FreightWaves whether he had been in contact with the Biden administration after the events of last week, he replied, “Communication has been daily, hourly, by the minute. Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su has been on the phone with us morning, noon and night.”

March imports up 28% vs. February

The port’s volumes were negatively impacted by fallout from the Lunar New Year holiday in February and rebounded in March.

Total March throughput came in at 623,233 twenty-foot equivalent units, with exports at 98,276 TEUs and empty containers at 204,995 TEUs.

Los Angeles handled 319,962 TEUs of imports last month. That was down 35% year on year, however, March 2022 was the best March in the port’s history as a result of the COVID consumer boom. This March’s imports rose 28% versus February and were 8% higher than imports in March 2019, pre-COVID.

(Chart: FreightWaves based on data from Port of Los Angeles)

“The number of canceled sailings declined from 30 in February to 18 in March,” said Seroka.

“Despite the current headwinds, we’re forecasting gradual volume growth from one month to the next,” he continued. Total April throughput is expected to come in close to 700,000 TEUs, up around 12% from last month.

Given the tough comps to the boom era in 2022, “the second quarter will look relatively light on face value,” said Seroka. “But from then on, we’re expecting a more traditional peak shipping season with a moderate volume uptick in the third quarter. I still continue to believe there are bright skies ahead.”


[Read from the original source.]