For months, almost nine months to be exact, the promotional products industry (along with other business involved with international trade) has experienced delays at West Coast ports. To briefly touch on the importance of these ports (29 in all), the West Coast ports are the United States’ gateway to China. The majority goods that come to the US from China enter somewhere along the West Coast.What used to be an easy clearing process has turned into a logistical nightmare. As the Logistics Manager here at Onyx, I am experiencing a 14 to 17 day delay on goods coming into port excluding customs inspections. Why can’t customs inspect the goods while they are waiting to be offloaded you ask? The answer is simple; the container ships are waiting out at sea, unable to come into port. The picture below will show you what I mean.
Negotiations have been ongoing since last summer between the ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) and PMA (Pacific Maritime Association), with little progress. It took Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and Federal Mediator Scot Beckenbaugh to get both sides to reach a tentative agreement this past weekend. If a tentative agreement had not been reached, both sides would have had to continue negotiations in Washington DC under the watch of President Obama and his administration.
Although both sides have only reached a tentative agreement, which is a great sign and shows tremendous progress, the ILWU and PMA are confident that they will be able to close the deal. If for some reason a deal is not reached and negotiations completely fail, President Obama could enact the Taft-Hartley act which would force the ILWU back to work. I personally do not see it coming to that, neither do most observers of the ILWU.
I hope to see a finalized deal coming soon and our ports returning to normal operations. Either way, rest assured that Onyx will be monitoring the situation closely and managing deliveries carefully.