Clock Ticks Toward Possible “Container Cliff”

Washington—Federal mediators have been meeting this week with the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) who need to reach an agreement to avert a work stoppage on container shipments on 14 East Coast ports from Maine to Texas.

The ILA contract was originally set to expire on Sept. 30, 2012, but was extended until Dec. 29 when at the last minute the parties agreed to extend it until Feb. 6. Now with less than a week to go and still no contract agreement, the nation’s retailers are again warning against what could be a “container cliff” where incoming container shipments of imports, particularly apparel and accessories for spring, could be stymied in the supply chain.

Should the two sides fail to reach agreement and a work stoppage occurred, retailers, manufacturers, importers and exporters would have to make costly contingency plans to move product into the country if the sides fail to reach an agreement.

Previously, the National Retail Federation (NRF), American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) among others have appealed to President Obama to intercede and invoke the Taft-Hartley Act to force workers back in the event of a strike.

Last month, federal mediators were able to get the two sides past a major sticking point over container royalty fees, but urged the ILA and USMX to refrain from speaking about the compromises details as the overall contract negotiations continue.



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