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Port of LA functioning 'close to normal' says chief

Image: Port of Los Angeles YouTube Gene Seroka, Port of Los Angeles
The Port of Los Angeles has been operating at “close to normal” this month despite worker shortages and union actions says Executive Director Gene Seroka, although the situation remains fluid.

In a briefing for the US West Coast port’s May volume numbers Seroka said, “These past couple of weeks have been challenging and at times confusing for all of us out here at the West Coast ports, challenging indeed for service providers, cargo owners, and so many others.

“Here at the Port of Los Angeles I think it's fair to say that while the situation remains fluid. We've largely been able to function close to normal since June one, the Port of LA terminals are open trucks are moving and vessels by and large have been on schedule,” he said.

Seroka delivered the remarks in his usual upbeat fashion, which an industry observer has compared to that of a sports caster.

He said that when talks on a new collective bargaining agreement between dockworkers, represented by the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), and Pacific Maritime Association broke down temporarily on 1 June, this led to a shortage of spot workers and sporadic delays for about a week at the Port of LA’s terminals. For the last six days he said there had been “minimal disruption”.

Although he added, “We fully recognise that some truckers and customers have experienced delays and frustration in recent weeks.”

The two sides are now back at the table with intervention from US Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, who has flown to San Francisco.

“She remains in the city today working to break down those communication barriers issues that we've been stuck on and just keep the party's moving forward as they continue to bargain. It's clear that this is a top priority for the Biden Harris administration,” Seroka said.

“The bottom line for us it's been 13 months. We need both sides to bargain in good faith and find a way to reach agreement quickly.”

The previous contract between longshoremen and US West Coast ports expired on 1 July 2022, and negotiations on a potential new deal have dragged on since 10 May 2022 with few signs of progress.

Meanwhile as with the neighbouring Port of Long Beach the Port of LA continued to see a sharp reduction in container volumes in May 2023 compared to the same month a year earlier but the decline is slowing down. The Port of LA handled 779,140 teu in May this year about 19% lower than year earlier, however, volumes are up 60% on the low point of February this year.

You can watch the full briefing below