No contract breakthrough at West Coast seaports

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Seaports from Southern California to Seattle reopened — for a day — as negotiators labored to resolve a crippling contract dispute and resume the free flow of international trade across the West Coast waterfront.

 

Friday was a reprieve of sorts, a normal workday with normal work crews.

 

On Thursday, none of the massive cargo ships crammed with products from Asia were unloaded at the 29 ports — and none will be worked Saturday through Monday, either. Waters off Los Angeles, Oakland and Washington's Puget Sound have become parking lots for dozens of ships awaiting space at the docks.

 

Employers are locking out dockworkers who man the cranes that lift cargo on and off ships, saying they have slowed work as a bargaining tactic. Wages are higher on weekends and Presidents Day, and operators of marine terminals don't want to pay the premium for what they characterize as a "strike with pay."

 

Companies may still call smaller work crews that would take containers already stacked on dockside yards and put them on trucks or trains, where they'd finally enter the flow of commerce.

 

The dockworkers' union denies slowing down and says its members want to help relieve congestion at the ports that began building months ago. Since then, containers that used to take two or three days to clear the docks have been taking a week or more.

 

Talks on a new dockworkers' contract began in May and stalled in recent weeks. Negotiators met Friday with a federal mediator, but there was no breakthrough.

 

 

Meanwhile, the effects of strife at ports that handle about one-quarter of U.S. international trade continued to reverberate through the U.S. economy.

 

Honda Motor Co. said it would slow production for at least a week at six factories in Ohio, Indiana and Canada due to parts shortages. Those parts either are stuck in containers that haven't moved from crowded dockside yards, or on ships that can't dock because there's no room.

 

The automaker plans to trim production between Monday and Feb. 23, with factories shutting down for either full or half-days. Dealers haven't run short of cars yet and Honda hopes the dispute will end before that happens, Steve Kinkade said in an email.

 

Exporters also have suffered. In the latest example, Northwest Hardwoods said it will cut production at three mills in Washington or Oregon, according to vice president Brian Narramore.

 

HAWAII UPDATE

By Howard Dicus, Hawaii News Now

 

West Coast docks are mostly idle again, but Hawaii-bound containerships are still sailing this weekend, as labor and management exempt the islands from their fierce faceoff.

 

As before both sides are making an exception for Hawaii and Alaska. a decision which has enabled Matson, Horizon Lines and Pasha Hawaii Transport to maintain something close to a normal schedule.

 

More shipments are on the way

 

The Matson ship Mokihana, sailing Sunday from Long Beach, arrives at Sand Island on Wednesday night, with cargo some of which would ordinarily have gone on the Maunawili.

 

The Maunawili is out of service for repairs after an anchor came loose in rough seas and slammed into the hull. Because repairs are taking longer than expected, Matson is activating a reserve ship, the Matsonia, which will sail from Oakland next Friday.

 

Horizon Lines has reported some limited delays apparently stemming from slow work at the terminals it uses. The Horizon Spirit, sailing Saturday from Los Angeles, will arrive at Sand Island Thursday, a day later than usual. The Horizon Enterprise, already en route from Oakland, will arrive at Sand Island Monday.

 

Containers transferred to Young Brothers for shipment to neighbor islands are sometimes delayed by late transpacific sailings, but the barge line is not otherwise affected. Its workers, also represented by the ILWU, are on a separate negotiating track.

 

Pacific Air Cargo and Aloha Air Cargo, which have regular freight flights from LAX to Honolulu, have both picked up a small amount of extra business from shippers of perishable goods testing alternative connections in case they need them later. Both companies are exploring contingencies for extra flights but have done only a limited amount of extra flights so far, since, so long as maritime shipping remains reasonably reliable, switching to the air is much more expensive.

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