West Coast port lockout strands Juneau fish

Electronics inventories may run low in the long term

Posted: Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Taku Fisheries, a Juneau fish processor, is waiting for 100,000 pounds of frozen black cod stranded in Seattle to be shipped to Asia. Otherwise, Juneau businesses are not feeling many effects of the 11-day-old labor dispute that has halted West Coast shipping.

"We don't have a perishability issue, but it is quite a nuisance and it could be more than a nuisance shortly," said Eric Norman, general manager at Taku Fisheries.

Relations between the West Coast International Longshore & Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the shipping companies, have been tense for months, mainly over worker benefits. On Sept. 27, Pacific Maritime and terminal operators locked out members of the longshoremen's union, saying they had been engaging in a work slow-down. The union today agreed to a 30-day contract extension and was ready to return to work Wednesday. But the shipping lines did not accept the federally brokered deal.

Luckily for Taku Fisheries, the black cod season is mostly over, and the crab season is a few weeks away, Norman said. The cod is frozen, so it can wait to get to market, he said.

Most Juneau retail goods, including perishable foods, come twice a week by barges owned by Alaska Marine Services and Northland Services, two companies that do not employ union members. Representatives of Safeway, Alaskan & Proud market and Superbear said they have seen no effects on grocery shipments.

In October, most retailers are stocking up on products from overseas, such as electronics for the Christmas shopping season. Many of those goods are on barges anchored outside West Coast ports.

Juneau Kmart already has received its fourth-quarter inventory that should last until January, store director Debbie Saddler said. Kmart produce comes by plane, she said. The corporate office of Fred Meyer in Washington did not return a call for comment.

Juneau Costco has had no trouble with food shipments and has stockpiled other goods in its warehouse store.

If the strike continues for a prolonged period, store officials anticipate there could be some shortages of products that must be shipped from Asia.

"We have quiet a bit of inventory on hand," said Greg Schatz, Costco warehouse manager. "Only thing I really foresee, if it continues into November and December, is (an effect on) electronics from overseas."

Julia O'Malley can be reached at jomalley@juneauempire.com.

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