FocusResins industry keeps watch on looming US dockworker strike

13 September 2012 21:42  [Source: ICIS news]

Ship trafficBy Ron Coifman

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Latin America’s chemical industry players are keeping a nervous watch on the US, where a looming dockworkers strike could threaten resins shipments, sources said on Thursday.

The outcome of labour negotiations between the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) and the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and a potential strike on 1 October are a source of concern to the plastic resins market participants throughout the Americas, industry sources in Latin America said.

Participants in Latin America are observing the development of negotiations, as a strike would paralyse break-bulk shipments from and to the US Gulf and US Atlantic coast. However, a Latin American source said it had not yet taken any measures against the potential strike.

The ILA said on 31 August that the union hoped to avoid a strike on 1 October, but was making preparations for one if the USMX holds to its recent position on wages and benefits.

Six of the country’s leading maritime labour organisations, including the ILA, announced on Thursday an alliance to protect the interest of their members.

Negotiations were proceeding under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), and would resume during the week of 17 September, the FMCS said.

The FMCS said it will not disclose either the location of the meeting or the content of the substantive negotiations that will take place, because of the sensitivity of the high profile dispute.

Houston is one of the nation’s largest container ports and would no doubt be affected by a longshoremen’s strike. However, oil and most petrochemicals are liquids and shipped through other terminals on the Houston Ship Channel and not through the Port of Houston.

An employee at an ILA Local 28 in Pasadena, Texas, said few of its members worked at chemical-related sites. Many of the chemical terminals on the Houston ship channel, such as Vopak, employ non-union personnel to offload tankers and would not be affected by the longshoremen’s strike.

Meanwhile, a Houston-based trader of polyvinyl chloride monomer (PVC), a resin that is often shipped in containers, said that overseas buyers may hold off on purchases, especially in the wake of a set of recent price initiatives, in October and November if it appears that a strike could indefinitely delay arrival of product.

A producer noted the same concerns, adding that delays could add to traders’ costs.

($1 = €0.78)

Additional reporting by Lane Kelley and Ken Fountain

By: Ron Coifman
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