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West Coast port shut-down still affecting supply, say importers

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Some tire importers are still feeling the supply squeeze even though West Coast shipping companies and dockworkers who have been at odds have reached a tentative, multi-year contract.

"At one time during the (early October) work stoppage, we had 210 containers backed up at the port," says Earl Knoper, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Toyo Tire (U.S.A.) Corp.

Containers continued to pile up even after longshoremen were ordered back to work by a federal judge in mid-October, Knoper says.

"It got up to 220, maybe 235 containers. Just last week, we started getting more released.

"We're finally making headway on the backlog."

It will take at least a month for Toyo's supply to get back up to speed, Knoper adds.

"Supply is going to be impacted through December," says Mike Leverington, marketing manager for Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc., which imports 100% of its tires from Asia.

"The problem is the inability to get enough containers back to Asia to make the round trip."

Falken Tire Corp. is facing the same problem, according to Richard Smallwood, Falken vice president of sales and marketing.

"We're not getting stuff loaded in Japan," he says.

"We have a glut of empty containers here that need to be in Asia, loaded with product," says Dennis Cates, vice president of marketing for Del-Nat Tire Corp.

"We'll feel the impact of it into the middle part of the first quarter."

The Pacific Maritimes Association, which represents nearly 30 ports up and down the West Coast, originally locked International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) members out of the facilities at the end of September.

The 10-day lock-out ended when President George W. Bush invoked the Taft-Hartley Act, which established an 80-day "cooling off period."

Shipping companies and the ILWU reached a tentative six-year contract yesterday that must be ratified by a majority of the union's 10,500 members.

Voting will probably take place after Thanksgiving.

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