U.S. shippers may opt for air cargo alternatives on West Coast

A sharp spike in air cargo demand has been evident ever since the ILWU and PMA began negotiating a new contract several months ago.

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When it comes to assessing the current state of the U.S. West Coast dockside labor situation, air cargo providers may be contemplating this verity:  “it’s an ill wind that blows no one any good.”

A sharp spike in air cargo demand has been evident ever since the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) began negotiating a new contract several months ago.

According to Brandon Fried, executive director of the Airforwarders Association, some of that business may never return to the waterfront.

“Our shippers use all modes of transport in their operations,” he says, “but we are seeing a very significant shift back to air now…especially with components of the perishable market. The disruptions at the ports are too unstable…especially now that drayage has become part of the equation.”

As LM has reported, independent truckers and Teamster drivers have staged several demonstrations at Southern California terminals in recent days. While these are not sanctioned strikes, shippers may be unnerved by the potential consequences.

An on-again, off-again trucker actions at the Port of Vancouver also has shippers concerned.

“The air cargo industry suffered when the air controllers were fired in the 1980s,” observes Fried. “And 9/11 dealt a serious blow to this sector for a long time, too. But we’ve recovered from those setbacks and it appears that air carriers are poised to capture freight for a long time.”


About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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