Contract negotiations between the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX) and the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) are scheduled to resume this week. Manufacturers urge both sides to reach a resolution to these talks ahead of the February 6 deadline.

The looming threat of a work stoppage in the beginning of February continues to cast a dark cloud over manufacturers who rely on the nation’s East and Gulf Coast ports to export products and receive goods. The economy cannot afford the consequences of any work stoppage at the ports and manufacturers will feel the full impact if both sides cannot come to an agreement.

The $1 billion per day cost of the 10-day West Coast port lockout in 2002 and the months it took to recalibrate the ports from this major disruption needs to be more than a reminder, but an incentive for both sides to soon reach an agreement. 

While manufacturers have planned for a potential disruption and continue to implement costly contingency arrangements in advance of February 6, concluding negotiations with an agreed upon contract before the deadline is the best solution.

Forward exporting, diverting cargo, increasing inventories and renting additional warehouse space do not position manufacturers for growth. Manufacturers will need greater assurances and a strong signal this week that a contract is an achievable goal in order to move beyond this palpable uncertainty.  Global customers need to know now that we will be open for business. 

Robyn Boerstling is director of transportation and infrastructure policy, National Association of Manufacturers.

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