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Cool Cargoes October 2015

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COOL CARGOES 20 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE OCTOBER 2015 SPOILED N EARLY A YEAR after labor stoppages at U.S. West Coast ports burned scores of perish- ables shippers, the industry's largest advocacy group refuses to relent in its to push for greater transparency in how ports are operated and nego- tiations with unions are conducted. Last winter's contentious dis- pute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and waterfront employers at 29 por ts extending from Southern California to Washington state cre- ated bottlenecks that took months to unclog and economic losses that are still reverberating throughout the industry. As the Pacific Maritime Asso- ciation and the 20,000 members of the ILWU crossed swords time and again during their protracted, 9-month-long labor dispute, tons of apples, oranges, avocados and other fresh foods spoiled on sun-baked docks, while meat and cheese went bad on warehouse shelves. At one point in late February 2015, the Nor th A merican Meat Institute estimated it was losing $85 million every week as meat and poultry sat in freezers, waiting for shipment to markets in Japan and China and other points in the Far East. Although the shipping commu- nity was aware that negotiations between the PMA and ILWU were hitting rough patches — the ILWU's contract expired in July 2014 — many seemed blindsided by just how intransigent both sides had become. By the time the polarity of the negotiators' positions became evident, pursuing alternatives, like rerouting shipments through Gulf and East Coast ports, not only added unanticipated transportation costs and fees to each shipment, but also lengthened delivery times to such an extent that spoilage was a real possibility. The situation deteriorated so quickly that growers of apple and pears reportedly were dumping sig- nifi cant amounts of their produce or allowing it to wait, and potentially wither, on their trees. Compounding the despair was the realization that every day with- out a resolution meant weeks and even months of backlogs that would continue to hurt shippers of perish- able foods. "To the wider public, the labor disruptions were talked about as a By Lara L. Sowinski

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