Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from ILWU Local 13.
Terminals at the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach effectively shut down due to a lack of labor starting Thursday evening.
Ports, trucking groups, shipping lines and terminal operators have reported widespread terminal closures at the twin ports. The closures continued throughout Friday, according to several stakeholders.
Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a statement four of the port’s container terminals are closed for the full day, noting that terminal operators shut down after workers did not report for the day.
“We have no further information as to the situation, but it is expected that normal, regularly scheduled hours and operations will resume tomorrow,” said Cordero.
The Port of Los Angeles said in a statement it is working with stakeholders, including federal officials, to "support a return to normal operations in the San Pedro Bay."
The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents West Coast port employers, said the disruptions were caused by a local union at the twin ports, which withheld some labor for the evening shift on Thursday. Widespread labor shortages then halted operations at terminals.
“The action by the Union has effectively shut down the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – the largest gateway for maritime trade in the United States,” the PMA said in a statement.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dockworkers across the West Coast, declined to comment, referring inquiries to ILWU Local 13.
The local union did not take credit for a labor action, instead pointing to a monthly union membership meeting on Thursday evening, which was attended by several thousand workers and union members taking a religious holiday on Friday, April 7.
"Cargo operations are ongoing as longshore workers at the Ports remain on the job," ILWU Local 13 said in a statement, which was texted to Supply Chain Dive.
Limited terminal operations are common at ports worldwide ahead of Easter Sunday. On the U.S. West Coast, monthly union meetings also typically limit operations at the terminal, and typically occur during low-volume shifts, such as the second shift.
But labor shortages and terminal closures across both ports over the past few days have led some to question whether the disruptions were solely tied to an administrative meeting.
Ian Weiland, chief operating officer at Junction Collaborative Transports, said in a LinkedIn post terminals typically give truckers far more notice of closures ahead of union meetings, but this time, truck drivers only got a few hours' notice.
In a separate post, Weiland warned of potential delays and disruptions for shippers in light of the action at the San Pedro Bay ports.
“If your container was scheduled to be pulled last night, today, or over the weekend, expect delays in pulling the container. If your empty has not yet returned, expect delayed empty returns and unfortunately additional charges,” Ian Weiland, chief operating officer at Junction Collaborative Transports, said on LinkedIn.
Other logistics providers have sent their customers similar notices, outlining the effects of the port closures.
Maersk, for example, said in a customer advisory four of its vessel services — TP6 Maersk Eureka, TP8 Maersk Antares, WCCA Maersk Newcastle and TP2 MSC Livorno — had been affected by the work actions. The ocean liner said that ILWU Local 13 crane operators and top handler drivers “decided to reject their job assignments that were ordered by the employers for the evening’s second shift, impacting all Los Angeles and Long Beach terminals.”
Meanwhile, at least one terminal, Long Beach Container Terminal, has marked its truck gates as closed for the Easter Sunday holiday.
Port disruptions come at a tough time for the nation’s largest port complex, which continues to lose market share as shippers shift volumes elsewhere to avoid potential disruption from ongoing negotiations. While union leaders and port employers had insisted no major disruption would result from the talks, a lack of an enforceable contract has led to smaller disputes and other limited disruptions over the past year.
“These actions undermine confidence in West Coast ports, and threaten to further accelerate the diversion of discretionary cargo to Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports. The health of the Southern California and state economy depend on the ability of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to stem this market share erosion,” the PMA said.
Sarah Zimmerman, Alejandra Salgado and David Taube contributed to this story.