The Port of Baltimore said arbitration was expected to begin Friday morning in an effort to end a strike by members of International Longshoremen's Association. The strike began Wednesday and has shutdown public terminals in the port.
The port said the Steamship Trade Association (STA) advised it Thursday that arbitration was scheduled for this morning between the STA and ILA labor. The Maryland Port Administration (MPA) said it "remains hopeful that a resolution will be achieved quickly." Meanwhile, both carriers and shippers are trying to figure out how to respond to the shutdown.
One ship, the CCNI Antofagasta,
has sailed to its next port, Charleston, said Richard Scher, a spokesman for the MPA. Andy Abbott, the president and chief executive officer of Atlantic Container Line, said Thursday that his company has a ship in the port, the Atlantic Conveyor
, and faces the dilemma of having to decide how long to have its ship remain in port without being worked.
"There's not much we can do right now but wait and see what's going to happen," he said. The cost of the shutdown is "enormous. The question is, how long do
we sit there. How long do you sit there before you say, 'Guys, kiss it
goodbye, keep the cargo on board and let's go back to Europe again.' What
other options do you have?"
ACL ships arriving from Europe have a rotation of Halifax-New York-Baltimore-Norfolk-New York-Halifax before returning to Europe.
"The ILA probably will not allow us to take
it off in any other U.S port, so you don't have an option. We can't just
sit and park there for six weeks. So that means you almost have to bring
the cargo back again to Europe," explained Abbott.
"We're very disappointed," Abbott said, noting that there are not that many shipping companies that call Baltimore.
Should the strike last very long and cargo can't be offloaded, Abbott continued, customers are "going to say, 'Hmm, Baltimore is kind of
unreliable. I don't know if I want to ship back to Baltimore again.'"
Abbott said while a relatively small portion of ACL's containerized cargo moves through the port — 15 percent or 20 percent — it accounts for about half of the inbound ro/ro cargo its ships carry and between 35 percent and 40 percent of the outbound ro/ro.
While ILA union members approved a national master contract in April, members of ILA Local 333 in Baltimore rejected a local agreement with employers represented by the STA on Tuesday, leading to a strike on Wednesday. Three other ILA locals in Baltimore have approved local contracts, but are honoring picket lines.