Category Archives: Longshore

West Coast Longshore Workers Vote to 3-Year Extension of Labor Contract

The ILWU’s Coast Balloting Committee confirmed that West Coast longshore workers at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington have officially ratified a three-year contract extension with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA). The Committee carefully reviewed balloting results from all longshore local unions and confirmed a tally showing that 67% of members voted in favor of the extension. The current agreement was set to expire on July 1, 2019; the newly approved three-year pact will extend the expiration to July 1, 2022.

The contract extension will raise wages, maintain health benefits, and increase pensions from 2019-2022. 

The results followed a year-long debate and democratic decision-making process which allowed every registered longshore worker from Bellingham, Washington, to San Diego, California, to express their views and cast a ballot.

“The rank-and-file membership has made their decision and expressed a clear choice,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. “During the past year we saw a healthy debate and heard different points of view, with concerns raised by all sides. The democratic process allowed us to make a difficult decision and arrive at the best choice under the circumstances.”

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Coast Longshore Division represents approximately 20,000 longshore workers on the West Coast of the United States.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance recently applauded the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s ratification of the three-year extension to its contract with the Pacific Maritime Association. 

“In this incredibly competitive shipping market, a longer contract helps give certainty to importers and exporters that depend on our region to move goods and create family-wage jobs,” said Tom Albro, Port of Seattle commission president and co-chair of The Northwest Seaport Alliance. “This certainty helps us focus on attracting more cargo and growing our market share.” 

“We appreciate the cooperative efforts of our labor partners and shipping lines and terminal operators in ensuring that retailers, farmers and manufacturers can rely on our supply chain to move their goods efficiently,” said Dick Marzano, Port of Tacoma commission president and co-chair of the NWSA. “Our region depends on us pulling together.”

Taken together, marine cargo operations in the NWSA’s Tacoma and Seattle harbors support more than 48,000 jobs across the region and provide a critical gateway for the export of Washington state products to Asia.

Photo info: San Pedro, CA port scene – by Kit Case

Port of Tacoma, WA Pier 4 Reconfiguration Update

The Northwest Seaport Alliance provided the following update of the South Harbor Pier 4 project to expand and fortify the pier to receive the new megaships. The project employs workers in the construction trades and, once completed, will lead to greater cargo coming through the port, potentially increasing longshore and harbor worker employment.

The Pier 4 reconfiguration is taking shape on the General Central Peninsula in the South Harbor. Crews are working heavily on pier construction and installing underground utilities, including electrical, communication, sewer and stormwater treatment.

Since awarding the contract to Manson Construction Company and launching the first phase of the project in May 2016, the 1,724-foot pier at the Port of Tacoma nears its halfway mark.

In February, Manson wrapped up the first phase of the pile driving, which set up the foundation for the structure that will be capable of serving two 18,000-TEU container ships once completed.

“Bigger ships require bigger cranes, and bigger cranes require a stronger foundation to evenly distribute the load,” said Trevor Thornsley, senior project manager for the Port of Tacoma. “Building the pier is all about providing enough support to handle the heavy cranes and the heavy load of the trucks, straddle carriers and the equipment that run on the pier.”

Each pile, varying from 70 to 170 feet in length, is precisely driven underwater in a neat row formation. The segments are then bound together with rebar and concrete to create a thick platform called a pile cap. Once pile caps are built, the crew will place 25-foot-wide deck panels between the caps and fill any gaps with more concrete. At the end of the project, the pier will be covered with 3 to 6 inches of pavement.

The second phase of pile driving is slated to resume in July. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2018. 

Watch a video of the latest progress and learn more about the Pier 4 project.

In a related post, the Northwest Seaport Alliance reported on the potential for additional crane purchases for Pier 4:

The Managing Members will consider purchasing four additional cranes from Zhenhua Port Machinery Company (ZPMC) in China at their June 6 special joint meeting. The Managing Members approved the purchase of the first four super post-Panamax container cranes in 2016 to handle larger ships. If the additional cranes are approved, all eight cranes are expected to arrive in spring 2018 at South Harbor’s Pier 4, where it is currently undergoing reconfiguration improvements.

Download and watch a video of the June 6 meeting here.

Photo credit: Northwest Seaport Alliance

 

Megaship in Seattle – First of Many

The biggest cargo ship ever to call in North America, CMA CGM’s Benjamin Franklin, arrived in Seattle on February 29, 2016 after it’s inauguration in Long Beach, CA and a stop in Oakland, CA on her way north.  French-based CMA CGM, the world’s third-largest container shipping firm, is taking steps to make it the market leader on trans-Pacific routes.  By May of this year, it will redeploy its flagship fleet of six 18,000 TEU ships on the trans-Pacific routes. Trade with Asia provides support for West Coast port cities and cities across the nation with increased jobs from the docks to the department stores.

Shipping lines have been gradually increasing the size of vessels for decades, taking advantage of improving technology and engineering to reduce fuel and labor costs. U.S. ports, meanwhile, have struggled to keep up with the growing size of the ships, spending billions to deepen harbors, raise bridges and improve onshore infrastructure like roads and rail connections.

Jock O’Connell, an international trade economist affiliated with Beacon Economics, said CMA CGM’s move to integrate the new ships into its trans-Pacific service so rapidly was a surprise. The Benjamin Franklin calls at several West Coast ports in recent months appeared to be test runs of the ability of the ports to handle the ships.

Seattle is in the midst of a major renovation of Terminal 5 to accommodate megaships like the Benjamin Franklin, improving dockside services, installing larger cranes and dredging to increase depths to allow for the deeper draft vessels.  The Benjamin Franklin, one of the largest container cargo vessels, capable of carrying 18,000 TEU, has a 52’ draft and is about a third larger than the biggest container ships that currently visit the deep water ports of southern California.

Thanks to the West Seattle Blog for other stats – besides the ship being more than twice as long as the 605-foot Space Needle is tall – it’s 177 feet wide and 197 feet high (roughly equal to a 20-story building), with its tallest antenna topping out at 230 feet.

Check out the fantastic photo tour of the Benjamin Franklin on gCaptain! 

Sources: gCaptain, Port of Oakland, West Seattle Blog, Wikipedia.

Video credit: Port of Oakland Photo credit: CMA CGM Media Gallery

 

Ports of Tacoma and Seattle Urge Immediate PMA-ILWU Contract Resolution

The Port of Seattle issued a statement on February 12, 2015 urging the PMA and ILWU to reach a resolution to their contract dispute:

In light of US West Coast ports’ limited activity this weekend, the ports of Seattle and Tacoma continue to press the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union to resolve the impasse in contract negotiations.

The ports do not have a seat at the negotiating table, however we have been exercising the limited options available to try to mitigate impacts on our customers and to keep cargo moving.

We share the frustration of the farmers, manufacturers, retailers, truckers and warehouse and distribution operators, who are suffering collateral damage as they continue to lose billions of dollars and lay off employees.

A lockout or strike would put even more stress on the working people throughout our state who rely on ports for their livelihood.

Taken together, marine cargo operations in Tacoma and Seattle support more than 48,000 jobs across the region and provide a critical gateway for the export of Washington state products to Asia.

This protracted negotiation is resulting in widespread economic damage and will have a lasting impact on our state’s economy.

We risk losing our role as a critical gateway as shippers seek alternatives to West Coast ports.

gCaptain reported on the weekend suspension of cargo loading and unloading at west coast ports, noting that the Pacific Maritime Association said that terminal yard, rail and gate operations at the ports, which handle nearly half of U.S. maritime trade and more than 70 percent of imports from Asia, would go on at the discretion of terminal operators through the weekend.  gCaptain quoted a statement from the PMA: “In light of ongoing union slowdowns up and down the coast which have brought the ports almost to a standstill, PMA member companies finally have concluded that they will no longer continue to pay workers premium pay for diminished productivity.”

gCaptain’s report continued:

Announcement of the weekend suspension came two days after the chief labor negotiator for the companies at the 29 West Coast ports warned that waterfronts that have been plagued by severe cargo congestion in recent months were nearing the point of complete gridlock.

The companies have repeatedly accused the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents 20,000 dockworkers, of deliberating orchestrating work slowdowns at the ports to gain leverage in contract negotiations that have dragged on for nine months

The union denies this and faulted the carriers themselves for the congestion, citing numerous changes in shipping practices as contributing factors.

The union also has downplayed the magnitude of the congestion, suggesting that management was exaggerating a crisis as a late-hour negotiation ploy.

Our local West Seattle Blog has been following the (lack of) progress between the PMA and ILWU.  The WSB reported on two days of horrible traffic between West Seattle and downtown, which was caused by a backlog of trucks crowding the surface streets around Terminal 18.  The following day, the traffic had returned to normal.  From an outisder’s perspective, it seemed that the drivers of Seattle had been used as a pawn in the match between PMA and ILWU.

(Photo by James Bratsanos)

Ports of Tacoma and Seattle urge President to Send Federal Mediators to Resolve PMA-ILWU Contract

Those in the Puget Sound region cannot help but notice the presence of many more cargo ships than usual at anchor in our harbors.  On my commute home from downtown Seattle I pass by Elliott Bay, where giant cargo ships fill every corner.  I can look across to Manchester, across the Sound from West Seattle, and am surprised to see cargo ships at anchor behind Blake Island State Park. 

My favorite local news source, the West Seattle Blog, provided the details: 

It’s a visible effect of an alleged “slowdown” that comes six months into West Coast contract talks between the ILWU, which says it’s “congestion,” and the terminal operators of the Pacific Maritime Association, which accuses the ILWU of “orchestrated job actions.”

On November 21st, the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle sent a joint letter to President Obama seeking the assistance of a mediator to resolve the contract disputes, and published the following press release:

CEOs from the ports of Seattle and Tacoma sent a letter today urging President Barack Obama to assign federal mediators to resolve contract negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.   The two ports together form the third-largest container gateway in North America, representing a critical connection to Asia and Alaska.  (Read the full letter to President Obama.)

Six months without a contract signed.  Perhaps the Ports are right to ask for assistance through a mediator.  The comment stream on the WSB site is evidence that local public opinion varies wildly and feelings run deeply on this topic.

 

Photo credit:  West Seattle Blog

 

Ports of Seattle and Tacoma Form Seaport Alliance

Unified management structure targets increased marine cargo, addresses competitive threats.

The Seattle and Tacoma port commissions plan to unify the management of the two ports’ marine cargo terminals and related functions under a single Seaport Alliance in order to strengthen the Puget Sound gateway and attract more marine cargo for the region.

The Seaport Alliance will manage marine cargo terminal investments and operations, planning and marketing, while the individual port commissions will retain their existing governance structures and ownership of assets.

This unprecedented level of cooperation between the state’s two largest container ports is a strategic response to the competitive pressures that are reshaping the global shipping industry.

Taken together, marine cargo operations at both ports support more than 48,000 jobs across the region and provide a critical gateway for the export of Washington state products to Asia.

“The ports of Seattle and Tacoma face fierce competition from ports throughout North America, as shipping lines form alliances, share space on ever-larger vessels and call at consolidated terminals at fewer ports,” said Port of Tacoma Commission President Clare Petrich. “Working together, we can better focus on financially sustainable business models that support customer success and ensure our ability to reinvest in terminal assets and infrastructure.”

“Where we were once rivals, we now intend to be partners,” said Stephanie Bowman, co-President of the Port of Seattle Commission. “Instead of competing against one another, we are combining our strengths to create the strongest maritime gateway in North America. The Seaport Alliance is the result of our shared commitment to maintaining the economic health of our region through a thriving maritime industry.”

The Seaport Alliance is the outgrowth of talks held under the sanction and guidance of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), the independent federal agency responsible for regulating the U.S. international ocean transportation system.

Subject to further FMC review and approval, the two port commissions will enter into an Interlocal Agreement (ILA), which is intended to provide the ports with a framework for a period of due diligence to examine business objectives, strategic marine terminal investments, financial returns, performance metrics, organizational structure, communications and public engagement. Following the due diligence period, the two port commissions intend to submit a more detailed agreement for the Seaport Alliance to the FMC by the end of March 2015.

During the due diligence period, John Wolfe, Port of Tacoma CEO, and Kurt Beckett, Port of Seattle Deputy CEO, will co-lead the planning work and coordinate with both port commissions.

Commissioners from both ports expect to hold a public meeting next spring to hire Wolfe as the CEO of the Seaport Alliance following the FMC’s approval of the agreement.

The two commissions expect to formally adopt and move to submit the ILA to the FMC at a joint public meeting Oct. 14.

Citizen and stakeholder public review of this proposal will be undertaken throughout the due diligence period. Information about public meetings, how to submit written comments and other related news will be regularly updated on the Port of Tacoma and Port of Seattle websites.
 

 Photo credit: Hollingsworth / Foter / CC BY-SA

 

Port of Seattle, Eagle Marine Agree to Make Terminal 5 BIG Ship Ready

The Port of Seattle and Eagle Marine Services (EMS), operator of Terminal 5, announced on May 16th a proposal to relocate its cargo and breakbulk activities to another terminal so that the port can modernize Terminal 5 to handle the bigger ships that are changing international shipping. 
 
“If we’re going to keep jobs in Washington state, we need investments that make us globally competitive,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant. “That’s why we’re rebuilding T5.  We’re investing in jobs.  Modernizing T5 so it can handle the new big ships is the first step in realigning our port for the future.”
 
“As we are working to preserve maritime jobs in Seattle, the Commission is moving forward to strengthen cooperation with the Port of Tacoma to increase trade in Puget Sound,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton.  “We’re having productive talks on how we can make the Puget Sound gateway more competitive and create new jobs.” 
 
“ILWU Local 19 appreciates the work the Port of Seattle and terminal operators are doing to keep cargo here in Seattle by making each of our terminals big ship ready,” said ILWU Local 19 President Cam Williams.  “By preparing for the future, we insure that jobs will stay in the region.”
 
Shipping lines are consolidating into new alliances, and have been launching much bigger ships as part of their strategy to reduce costs. While three of the port’s container terminals are already home to Super Post-Panamax cranes that service 10,000 TEU vessels and above, the existing cranes at Terminal 5 are not able to handle these bigger ships.
 
Under the proposal, EMS would shift its operations to Terminal 18, allowing EMS to preserve container volume and ship calls. This commitment will preserve maritime jobs that depend on cargo flowing today through T5. Cargo destined to T5, under this proposal, would begin transitioning to T18 in mid-June.  The proposal with EMS is tentative pending approval by the Port of Seattle Commission.
 
“T5 needs to be modernized for the bigger ships that are already here, we applaud the Port in working with us to preserve our customers’ cargo through this gateway,” said Nathaniel Seeds, COO of Eagle Marine Services, Ltd.
 
Maintaining efficient cargo throughput is essential for moving goods in and out of the port.  With four in ten jobs in Washington dependent on trade, these terminal improvements will insure that Washington goods can get out of the Port of Seattle and into markets world-wide.
 
“Preserving vessel service capacity is good for exporters, we appreciate the Port of Seattle’s efforts to keep this gateway competitive,” said Anderson Hay CEO & President Mark Anderson.
 
The Port has also received approval from the federal government to let the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers begin studying the potential for a project that may result in the deepening of the West Waterway channel near the terminal. 

No Judges, No Justice

The LHWCA covers claims for longshoremen and shipbuilding and repair workers.

Some months ago, I reported about a slowdown in the processing of claims under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and allied statutes.  The LHWCA was enacted in 1927, and through amendments over the years has been broadened to include injury and disease claims for longshoremen and shipbuilding and repair workers. Expansion of the program in 1941 resulted in the Defense Base Act, covering employees of military contractors working abroad. With our ten-year presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, a large cohort of injured workers has fallen under the DBA in recent years.

Underfunding of ALJ positions within the Department of Labor routinely results in long delays for the hearing and decision making in claims, often meaning claimants are without any coverage for years.

In another segment of its Breathless and Burdened report (subsequent to the one I recently posted about, concerning how black lung victims are routinely having their claims denied as a result of coal company-sponsored evaluations at Johns Hopkins), the Center for Public integrity has now reported on the extreme reduction of the number of administrative law judges within the US Department of Labor who hear and decide claims under the LHWCA and DBA. The center reports that the number of ALJ’s, nationwide, it has fallen to 35, from 41 earlier in 2013 and 53 a decade ago. This has occurred in the context of a 68% rise of new cases before the office of administrative law judges, and 134% increase in pending cases.

Underfunding of ALJ positions within the Department of Labor routinely results in long delays for the hearing and decision making in claims, often meaning claimants are without any coverage for years. Longshore and military contractor employers and their insurance companies, knowing that the adjudicative process in contested claims has become ridiculously long, are emboldened to sit on monies that are clearly owed to injured workers.  In addition to the injustice to entitled injured workers resulting from this administrative chaos, to the extent that an injured workers medical benefits and indemnity payments are pushed to other systems, such as Medicare, Social Security, and state disability systems, the costs of the Longshore system are shifted to the federal tax payer and away from the employers and their carriers who should appropriately bear the burden.

Read about the specifics of particular cases in the Center’s report here.

 

Photo credit: Markus Brinkmann / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Sequester Whacks Injured Workers

Injured workers with claims under the Longshore & Harbor Workers Act and the Defense Base Act, who are awaiting hearings by federal administrative law judges (ALJs), have now had their cases seriously impacted by the Sequester.  The Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ), with District Offices in seven cities including San Francisco, schedules hearings not only in those cities but in other venues in the District.  The San Francisco office schedules hearings in San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Denver and elsewhere, and so-called Calendar Calls are scheduled in those cities by traveling ALJs. 

The Sequester has caused the San Francisco office…to cancel all travel by ALJs until at least October, when a new fiscal year for OALJ may refresh its travel budget.

The Sequester has caused the San Francisco office, which covers a larger geographical territory than any other, to cancel all travel by ALJs until at least October, when a new fiscal year for OALJ may refresh its travel budget.  No further Calendars in outlying cities will be scheduled until at least October.  In the meantime, the parties may agree to bring their witnesses to San Francisco for hearings (or agree to a telephonic hearing – rarely a good alternative), but both sides must to agree to the alternative process.  The cost of bringing the claimant and expert witnesses to San Francisco, even if jointly agreed to, makes that a mostly unrealistic option.

The cancellation of travel for ALJs makes the system even more unfair to claimants.

The likelihood is that, in claims where the insurance carrier is denying benefits, many carriers will simply choose to wait out the claimants for the many additional months delay the Sequester budget issue gives them.  An terribly-burdensome delay already exists in this system, as ALJ decisions on cases typically take one to two years to issue after the trial.  The cancellation of travel for ALJs makes the system even more unfair to claimants.  Because of the long delay in getting to a hearing and then to a decision, a large number of cases in which hearings are requested ultimately end up settling in an alternative dispute resolution process called “mediation,” as both sides wish to arrive at settlement without the work and expense of getting ready for trial and then a long wait for a decision.  A scheduled hearing is what mostly drives the parties to mediate these cases.  But with six months of cancelled Calendars in non-District Office cities,  claimants attorneys worry that insurance carriers will feel under far less pressure to bring these cases to the mediation table.

 

Photo credit: jaymallinphotos / Foter.com / CC BY-NC