To the obvious relief of many industry supply chains, an announcement that a tentative agreement has been reached among the Pacific Maritime Association and longshoremen has finally come.  The announcement came late Friday night, Pacific Time after nearly nine months of ongoing contract talks and rancor.

According to reports, dockworkers are expected to conduct normal port operations beginning this evening. This tentative agreement averts what could have been an even more disruptive scenario of a total shutdown of ports.

This five year contract agreement still needs the approval of longshoremen union members as well as individual employers.  There may also be some local port issues needing resolution.  Thus far, no details of the new contract have been disclosed including the reported final contentious issue related to the selection or elimination of certain arbitrators for work rule disputes.  According to published reports, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, while declining to reveal any details, indicated that employers and the union have agreed to a new arbitration system.

As Supply Chain Matters opined in yesterday’s update commentary, when contract talks were eventually resolved, it will take months before any U.S. west coast port operations return to a state of normalcy, if at all. The underlying issues of the structural impacts of unloading and loading far larger container ships, the notion of proper scheduling of now outsourced trailer carriages and the consequences of trucking lines classifying truck drivers as casual, independent contractors remain ongoing challenges to be addressed.

Gene Seroka, executive director for the Port of Los Angeles indicated to the Los Angeles Times on Friday: “more than ever, we need labor and management working together.”  Those words have special meaning for all U.S. west coast ports.

Remember this date, it will serve as the baseline indicator as to how long before U.S. west coast ports return to operational service levels meeting shipper and industry supply chain expectations.  Much work remains, not only from an operations perspective, but also from a shipping lines management planning perspective.

Bob Ferrari