APM Terminals does not necessarily expect a strike to happen in 14 ports on the U.S. East Coast, as the result of the two parties walking away from negotiations about a wage agreement on Tuesday, says Erik Eisenberg, Vice President for Communications & Branding at APM Terminals, to ShippingWatch.
"The current situation is that the two parties left the negotiations yesterday. But the deadline is the end of the year, and there's still some time to go before that, so we'll have to see what happens. I don't think one should assume that a strike is a given," says Erik Eisenberg.
The negotiations revolve around a six-year wage agreement for the port workers in the 14 ports. Analysts have in recent months predicted that shutting down the ports on the U.S. East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico would have disastrous consequences for Maersk Line and the rest of the world's major container carriers.
Last year, the ports on the East Coast and at the Gulf handled 20.7 million teu, or 48 percent of all container traffic through U.S. ports. The biggest port on the East Coast, New York/New Jersey, handled 5.5 million teu, or almost 13 percent of the total container volume in the United States.
Supports the negotiations
He stresses that the company fully supports the attempts at solving the situation through negotiations in the employers' union, USMX, of which APM Terminals is a member. It is not possible to say anything specific about the possibe consequences for APM Terminals if a strike does happen, he says.
"What we're looking at here is a total work conflict that would impact the entire U.S. East Coast. So the question is not really how this would impact us, because it would be difficult to say anything clever about that. It would impact the entire U.S. export/import economy, which is why it's also unlikely that something like that would be allowed to keep going for weeks or months," says Erik Eisenberg.
Stakeholders would intevene
He believes there is a pattern from previous comprehensive strikes, which shows that financial stakeholders will usually intervene quickly in the strike negotiations, in order to resolve the strikes as fast as possible.
"At the most recent strike, the mayor of Los Angeles kickstarted the gridlocked negotiations. Other situations have seen interventions from even higher up in the political hierarchy. So if an entire region is hit by such a gridlocked situation, in my opinion, it won't last long," says Erik Eisenberg.
He points out that a potential strike might not impact the U.S. economy as hard as the strike in the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach at the end of November and early December, as the beginning of January is traditionally a more quiet period for trade.
"But that's not to say that it doesn't matter if there's a strike or not - not by a long shot," says Erik Eisenberg.