Maine retailers relying on Portland-bound shipments are keeping close eye on a potential strike of dock workers that could affect container shipments to Portland and the East Coast's major ports.
Carolyn Beem, a spokeswoman for L.L.Bean, told the Bangor Daily News that the company is exploring shipment contingencies following a vote by the International Longshoremen's Association to authorize a strike if a contract that covers container service is not successfully renegotiated before it is set to expire in September.
That contingency plan, Beem said, could include routing shipments through the West Coast rather than through East Coast ports.
Beem told the Portland Press Herald that the company relies mostly on New York ports to ship its products and that Portland, which would be affected alongside other East Coast ports in the event of a strike, "is a big part of the mix."
The contract in question covers only container service, according to the BDN, and would not impact cargo not loaded in shipping containers, such as wood pulp, lumber and fuel.
The BDN reported that the Lewiston-based liquor company White Rock Distilleries and Sappi Fine Paper in Westbrook are also big users of container shipping service in Portland and are monitoring the potential strike.
White Rock traffic manager Harold Jones told the Press Herald that the company may look to ship through Nova Scotia if Eastern U.S. ports are shut down.
Jack Humeniuk, the ILA's representative in Portland, where between 3,000 and 5,000 containers are handled on average each year, told the Bangor paper that the problems plaguing ILA negotiations come out of larger ports, like New York and Miami, dealing with automation that would eliminate some longshoremen jobs.
Humeniuk told the paper that issues with automation do not exist in Portland.
As of Friday, no new negotiations of the container shipment contract were scheduled between the ILA and the U.S. Maritime Alliance, which represents container carriers and port operators.