After nine months of being nauseous from the contract negotiation roller coaster, we have a tentative agreement. So, now what?
While we await the ILWU rank-and-file review and vote on the contact (estimated to take 45 days or so), we get back to the important task of moving cargo. It will take some time, months likely, to dig out of the backlog of ships and containers. After all, we did not get into this mess overnight, so we are not going to get out of it overnight. The entire logistics chain is strained to the breaking point…terminal operations, chassis availability, vessel schedules, rail road capacity, cargo owners…not to mention your frazzled motor carrier. The network lacks the elasticity to rebound overnight.
The good news is, labor is back at work, and marine terminals are hiring workers for second and weekend shifts.However, the sheer demand of work needed has resulted in a shortage of labor. Therefore, ships will be a port longer than “normal” but shorter than what we have been experiencing these past few months. We will see modest improvements over a prolonged period of time.
As we search for the light at the end of the tunnel, the overwhelming sentiment is, “We cannot settle for what passed as normal in July 2014. We have to do better than that.” Everyone in the network is committed to finding resolutions to improve productivity. If West Coast ports are to regain the confidence and cargo lost, it is imperative to take action in this regard and quickly.