Retail giants, shipping companies and federal agencies are racing the clock to make plans as an East Coast and Gulf dock strike this weekend appears imminent.
If they don't reach an agreement or reject another contract extension, negotiators still might have a sliver of wiggle room. The contract is set to expire at one minute past midnight Dec. 30 — a Sunday. Monday and Tuesday are union holidays. That means the full effect of a walkout wouldn't be felt until Wednesday, Jan. 2.
"When ports go black, it's almost like America isn't open for business," said association spokesman Scott Elmore. "Our economy can't afford a hiccup like this."
Ports America Chesapeake, which operates the Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore, has extended hours to move as many shipping containers as possible and has established storage terms for containers caught in port during a strike.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection has issued guidelines on how it will process and inspect ships that could be prevented from docking or forced to divert to a foreign port.
Some clothing and footwear companies anticipated the possibility of a port shutdown and ordered early while others are making plans to use West Coast and foreign ports and then ship merchandise by truck or rail to the East Coast. But every alternative is expected to drive up the cost of goods to the consumer, Elmore said.
A strike would stop all container traffic at the
Although 106 trade organizations have urged President