The Virginia Port Authority said it and the VPA’s operating company, Virginia International Terminals, have begun preparing the Hampton Roads port for a possible strike when the International Longshoremen’s Association contract expires Sept. 30.
Negotiations on a coastwide master contract between the ILA and United States Maritime Alliance broke down Aug. 22. No new talks have been scheduled, and ILA President Harold Daggett said last week that a strike appeared likely.
Virginia officials said their strike planning focuses on moving “as much cargo as reasonably possible” through port terminals before the contract expires. VPA and VIT officials have begun weekly conference calls with cargo owners to work out plans.
“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.
“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 the VPA and VIT will convene a meeting to discuss what will happen during and after an ILA strike. Meeting participants will include labor, ocean carriers, the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, operations personnel, motor carriers, harbor pilots and tug companies.
Planning discussing will include extending terminal gate hours, working with railroads to schedule trains and hours of operation, developing an informational hotline to be put in place during a strike, and a plan for using the VPA’s multiple messaging platforms to disseminate up-to-date information.