Late yesterday, in response to a joint request, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a U.S. agency responsible for mediating labor disputes was asked to intervene in contract talks among the Pacific Maritime Association, operator of 29 U.S. West Coast ports, and Longshoremen.

According to various media reports, tensions among the PMA and labor union negotiators escalated substantially on Friday of last week after the PMA announced a move to lower the number of workers unloading cargo ships at both the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles at night. The PMA indicates that it had to reduce night shift requirements to slow the number of containers filling storage yards.

One report indicates that early this week, nine container ships were waiting for unloading berths at either Long Beach or Los Angeles. That is an indicator that port operations remain backlogged at the same pace as November and December.

This development will fuel added concerns that the west coast port disruption of the past few months may be headed toward more crises if Federal mediators do not help in moving these labor talks forward. Even more important is the resolution of the multiple operational problems that created the “perfect storm” of port dysfunction during these past few months.

The U.S. west coast port crisis continues to bring unoptimistic developments and that should be a continuing concern for multiple industry supply chains.