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Retailers Explore Alternate Shipping Routes As Port Labor Dispute Drags On

B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
Some retailers are exploring options in Canada, such as the Port of Prince Rupert

A federal mediator has been appointed to help facilitate collective bargaining between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, the group representing terminal operators up and down the West Coast.

The employers have been saying the longshoremen have deliberately slowed down work to gain leverage in contract talks. The workers say the slowdown is the result of other congestion problems, including a shortage of truck beds for carrying containers.

Either way, the companies that have been waiting to ship or receive their goods are frustrated. Jonathan Gold with the National Retail Federation says retailers have been switching to alternate routes, even though it costs more.

"Air cargo is eight to ten times more expensive than ocean freight, but some — especially when you look at apparel and fashion and footwear — went to air cargo because they had to get the product to the store shelves," Gold said. 

Gold says other retailers are still importing by cargo ship but are using ports in British Columbia or ones on the East Coast instead. He says some retailers have opted to no longer use West Coast ports.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.