Cruise Lines Ride Out Labor Dispute at Seaports

Lines expect to continue operating normally at West Coast seaports despite a labor dispute

By: Theresa Norton Masek

Cruise ships expect to continue operating normally at West Coast seaports despite a major labor dispute that forced cargo traffic to a standstill last week.

Holland America Line reported that the Veendam had to tender its passengers to shore in Seattle Oct. 1 because it could not dock at Bell Street Pier 66.

“I think there was a lot of confusion as to what was happening,’’ said HAL spokesman Erik Elvejord.

The problem was solved by the following day, and the Amsterdam turned around in Seattle as usual.

“Like anybody else, we’re keen to know what’s happening and where it’s going, but it’s been pretty much business as usual for our ships,” Elvejord said.

The dispute is between the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents international shipping lines and terminal operators, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. After five months of contentious negotiations over a new contract, the maritime association said the union members were conducting an unofficial work slowdown and ordered them shut out at 29 ports from Seattle to San Diego.

“We are working directly with the longshoremen until this gets resolved,” said Jennifer de la Cruz, spokeswoman for Carnival Cruise Lines, which has two ships based at the Port of Los Angeles. “We’re able to do that because we’re not members of the PMA.”

Carnival does not expect operational problems at ports in the near future, de la Cruz added.

Royal Caribbean International also negotiated an agreement with the union, and its Radiance of the Seas docked at the Bell Street Pier as usual Oct. 1, a spokesman said.