Less than a week remains until the current contract between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association expires. Negotiations between the two have never been free of some sort of disruption, and in 2002 they ended in a 10-day lockout and significant work slowdowns. Trade groups, particularly retailers, have pressed the ILWU and PMA for an early conclusion to the negotiations, before the current contract expires on June 30, but that is unlikely. Still, PMA President Jim McKenna throughout the spring said an agreement would be reached by mid-July.
In conjunction with trade stakeholders, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has released instructions that it hopes will help stakeholders plan for the possible diversion of vessels and cargo scheduled for discharge at West Coast ports. The guidelines will only be applicable in the event of a disruption.
The agency said it will publish notices on its Unified Business Resumption site when these interim procedures go into effect, and when the interim procedures are terminated and normal processing resumes. Impacted West Coast ports will designate a point of contact for trade inquiries about specific procedures for each port, and that information will be posted on the Unified Business Resumption site, too.
Customs will also transmit information through the Cargo System Messaging Service, which is an email subscription service that provides notification of new messages.
Specifically, Customs has outlined procedures for filers when cargo is discharged in a foreign port, transshipped at a foreign port for delivery at the original destination port (e.g., via barge), diverted elsewhere on the U.S. West Coast, diverted to an East or Gulf Coast port, or held in a ship at anchor until it can be discharged at the original destination port.