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What Happens When a Port Goes on Strike?

With the recent Port of Vancouver strike, many small businesses have been wondering how a shipping strike will affect their business and others like them who rely on ports for shipping goods and products. It goes without saying that a port strike can cause a lot of disruption and can be really overwhelming. Because we’ve been in the business for 35+ years, we’ve seen many port strikes. 

Here’s our guide to what happens when a port goes on strike, so you can understand what to expect and how to pivot:

Slower shipping

The Port of Vancouver is a major port, and with the Vancouver port strike, a lot of shipping was significantly delayed. Large ports like the Port of Vancouver process millions of dollars in merchandise every day. Obviously, such a big disruption results in major shipping delays. A shipping strike will stop and delay a lot of shipping not only within Canada, but also to the US, China, and other countries that frequently trade and ship with Canada. 

If a port goes on strike, shipments may deviate to different ports

Many companies who normally ship by sea will have to pivot to land or air shipping, which will likely also cause shipping delays and confusion. Even still, some shipments which are not able to pivot to land or air will need to be redirected to a different port. Many companies who previously relied on sea shipments may make the necessary choice to pivot in order to keep their business running, even if it means taking longer to get goods where they need to go. They also may reroute shipments to other ports. 

When this happens, there can be debate about whether or not rerouting something is a “reasonable deviation”. Many shipping companies may charge extra for these changes or may choose to absorb the cost themselves. As a small business owner working around a port strike, this is something to watch out for.

Cascading delays

Because line operators rely so heavily on their strict schedule to operate, a shipping strike like the Vancouver port strike can be a major disruption to ports all over the world. Delays at one port can cascade to other ports, making the entire shipping system slow down. When one set of line operators is out of work, the workers at other ports will struggle to keep up with the workload and changes in schedule. These delays pose serious business risk not only to companies shipping through the port on strike, but also other ports and shipping methods, which will be affected by the port strike

There are many ways that a port strike can affect the shipping industry. Nobody likes to deal with a strike, but the good news is that there are alternative ways to have your goods and products delivered to where you need them to be. If possible, plan for extra time and do what you can to make sure your shipment has alternative ways of transportation by land, air, or through another port. There are steps you can take to make sure the shipping strike doesn’t get in the way of your business. 

Working with a good customs broker

Working with an experienced customs broker or freight forwarder will really help you mitigate delays if an unforeseen strike occurs. They will always advise you on the type of insurance to get, how early you should send your shipment, and what to do if your shipment is extremely delayed.

The bottom line

At Welke, we’re experts at pivoting and we know how to offer solutions on the fly. If you need something shipped, no matter what’s going on: get a quote today.