Port of Seattle closed due to ILWU labor dispute

  • PMA announces that the Port of Seattle is fully closed due to a coordinated work stoppage.
  • The Port of Seattle is one of the top maritime ports in North America that US ag exporters rely on to ship produce and grain.
  • The AgTC warns that the shutdown damages the reputation of U.S. exports of export goods as reliable.

Shipping containers at the Port of Seattle.

Patti Domm | CNBC

The labor dispute continues on the West Coast with the announcement that the Port of Seattle is closing due to the ILWU’s refusal to dispatch labor to work at the container terminals. This is according to an announcement from the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the terminals at the ports.

West Coast ports have faced continuous work cuts and shutdowns all week, with an estimated $5.2 billion in trade flowing out of the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland.

The Port of Seattle and its twin port, The Port of Tacoma, make up what is called the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA). The Port of Seattle is one of the top maritime ports in North America that US ag exporters rely on to ship produce and grain. About 40% of the jobs in Washington state are related to trade.

Top trading partners were China, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and India in 2022.

The Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC), which represents ag shippers, tells CNBC that these disruptions are damaging to the reputation of U.S. ag exporters as a reliable trading partner.

“When ILWU-PMA negotiations broke down at the end of a previous contract, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture wrote to our US Department of Agriculture, ‘Your ports are not working, but our cows are still eating.’ , CEO of AgTC.

The top six US exports according to the port’s website include apples (valued at $2.185 billion), milk ($1.209 billion), cattle (valued at $801.5 million), wheat (valued at $756.8 million), potatoes (valued at to 712.4 million dollars) , and high (value to 601.7 million dollars). The total value of exports in 2022 was $5.66 billion.

NWSA is the country’s second largest gateway for refrigerated containers called “refrigerated ships”. Frozen products such as French fries, meat, dairy, apple and fish are transported in these specialized containers.

“Our agriculture cannot stand by and cannot be stored in terminals,” Friedmann said. “We cannot continually miss sailings and delivery commitments to foreign buyers.”

Friedmann said ag exporters, with very few exceptions, do not have the ability to shift from West Coast gateways to East and Gulf Coast gateways. But he warned clients, foreign buyers do.

“They’re called Argentina, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand,” Friedmann said. “We don’t want to lose those customers.”

NWSA is also a port importer of cars with a terminal dedicated to Roll-On and Roll-Off vessels. Car imports increased by 6.5% in 2022 compared to 2021, with 172,979 units delivered. Kia and Hyundai cars use this gateway.

CNBC reached out to the Port of Seattle and the ILWU and had no comment at press time.

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