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The Port of Charleston’s newest terminal, the Hugh K. Leatherman, is finally set to become fully operational after a lengthy disagreement between the port authority (SC Ports) and the dockworkers’ union (ILA) was resolved. This conflict revolved around who would staff the new terminal’s crane operator positions. The agreement lets current crane operators decide if they want to stay state employees or join the ILA. This gives the ILA a say in staffing the terminal, something they argued they had the right to do all along.

This deal signifies the end of a legal battle and paves the way for the terminal to operate at full capacity. This will be a major boost to the Port of Charleston’s cargo handling capabilities. The new terminal itself is a significant addition, increasing the port’s capacity by a third. With room for expansion, it has the potential to more than double that increase in the future.

The backlog of cargo ships currently waiting to be unloaded at Charleston highlights the need for this additional capacity. Maintenance at another terminal has reduced its functionality, forcing ships to wait or divert to Savannah. While a temporary solution is planned during a maintenance break in July, the port won’t be fully operational again until November. The Leatherman terminal’s opening will significantly ease these congestion issues.

While the labor problems at Leatherman were not officially part of Contract renewal discussion between the ILA and USMX (the entity that represents Shipping Lines in Contract discussions), having this matter put to rest leaves only some local issues at the Port of Mobile, wages/benefits in general, and automation as the remaining items to be clarified for a new Labor Contract for the US East Coast and Gulf ports.

Source: JOC

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