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Port operations suspended on upcoming holidays, weekend

Port of Los Angeles.
Port of Los Angeles.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are temporarily suspending beginning Thursday and lasting through the holiday weekend as negotiations with the longshoremen's union continue to drag on. However, some operations will continue at terminal operators' discretion and operations will be expanded on other regular weekdays.

In a press release, the port association cited the longshoremen's union rejection of their last offer and continued slowdowns as the reasons for suspending operations. The suspension will  allow the organization to avoid paying the longshoremen holiday pay.

"What they’re doing amounts to a strike with pay, and we will reduce the extent to which we pay premium rates for such a strike," spokesman Wade Gates said in a press release.

When terminal operators looked out dockworkers last Saturday and Sunday, the consequences were immediate: 31 cargo ships queued up waiting to dock, the biggest bottleneck since 2004.

By Wednesday, the wait was down to 21, according to the Pacific Marine Exchange of Southern California, which manages port traffic.

With another suspension looming — one twice as long as last weekend’s — a number of ships are expected to divert to other ports. That will add time to their delivery schedule, and come with its own consequences, according to Jock O’Connell, an international trade advisor at Beacon Economics.

“It will lead to delays,” said O’Connell. “It will lead to lost sales. It will lead manufacturers to slow down their operations.”

O’Connell said there is a silver lining: By stopping new ships from coming in, the ports can devote more resources to moving out the cargo that’s already there. 

He added that the buildup of cargo containers on the docks comes is the result of a number of reasons — the labor standoff being only one of them.

This story has been updated.