Norfolk -- The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) and its operating company, Virginia International Terminals (VIT), have started the process of preparing the state-owned cargo terminals in the Hampton Roads Harbor for a strike.
Earlier in August contract negotiations between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance concluded without an agreement of any sort. As a result The Port of Virginia has started preparing for a work stoppage that, at this point, is scheduled to begin Oct. 1.
In summary, the focus of the plan is to move as much cargo through the port as reasonably possible up to the strike deadline.
“Our goal will be to do everything we can to ensure that all cargo is delivered prior to Oct. 1,” said Joseph A. Dorto, VIT’s president and CEO. “When we resume operations, VIT will do all possible to ensure our customers are taken care of in a timely and efficient manner. The goal is to maintain a high level of service to our customers so that there is minimal disruption to their business.”
To date, VPA and VIT officials have been holding regular conference calls with cargo owners to craft a strategy for moving as much cargo as possible between now and Oct. 1. Those calls will continue on a weekly basis.
“We believe our customers will immediately make plans to shift a portion of their cargo to West Coast ports – from 10 to 15 percent,” Dorto said. “The effect of this will not be felt here until October as cargo on the water today will still move to Virginia.”
Next week VPA and VIT will convene a meeting of critical port stakeholders to seek input and discuss what will happen in the event of a work stoppage and what will take place once labor returns to the terminals. Those stakeholders include: labor, the ocean carriers, US Coast Guard, US Customs and Border Protection, operations, motor carriers, harbor pilots and tug companies.
Some of the planning discussing will include:
- Extended gate hours at the terminals.
- Working with the railroads to schedule trains and hours of operation.
- Developing an informational hotline that would be put in place during a strike.
- Developing a communications strategy employing the VPA’s multiple messaging platforms that would be used to push out the most up-to-date information.
The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) is an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia, reporting to the state Secretary of Transportation. The VPA owns and operates four general cargo facilities on behalf of the state: Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County. In addition, the VPA leases and operates APM Terminals in Portsmouth and the Port of Richmond.