SHIPPERS have been frantically rushing containerised cargo through US west coast ports ahead of talks between the dockers and the maritime employers, says the National Retail Federation (NRF).
The clock has started ticking as the existing six-year contract for 7,000 union dockers at the twin seaports of Long Beach and Los Angeles expires on July 1, reported the Orange County Register.
"Folks are worried from the industry side," said NRF vice president Jonathan Gold. "Companies are looking at contingency plans, but they all come with a cost."
"Shippers must pay extra for warehousing, if they shift cargo to the east coast and Gulf of Mexico coast and then having to bring the cargo back west," said Mr Gold."
"We want to make sure there aren't any supply chain disruptions that would impact the cargo flow," he said. "Our members say they'd rather have a contract deal before it expires. That uncertainty is making our folks nervous."
Mr Gold forecasts US container volumes will increase by 3.5 per cent in May. The recovery in imports comes as the trade group forecasts retail sales will rise by 4.1 per cent.
Retailers still live in fear of a repeat of the 10-day lockout in 2002 that cost the economy up to US$2 billion a day as the cargo supply chain dried up.
Some say the jitters are unfounded. "Retailers are always full of drama and sending hysterical, and usually wrong, messages that the sky is falling for big retailers like Target and Wal-Mart," said International Longshore and Warehouse Union spokesman Craig Merril.
"This is a ritual they go through every time a contract comes up. They make all kinds of pronouncements that have little to do with reality."
Source : HKSG.