International shippers doing business through America’s East and Gulf Coasts can breathe a little easier as the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX)  await ratification of a tentative six-year master contract.  For importers and exporters, it is a rare sign of stability in a fluctuating domestic and international freight market.

Proactive negotiations have paid off for employers and unions, finalizing the agreement months before the September 30thexpiration. The ILA-USMX master contract deals with issues of wages, medical benefits, and carrier royalties, while local contracts will address issues of pensions, work-related issues, and port-specific details.

Collective fear of losing hard-won freight volume back to West Coast operators kept negotiations on track, feeling the pressure from beneficial cargo owners and retail groups like the National Retail Federation (NRF).  Local members must now ratify the agreement before July 10, 2018 to solidify the deal through 2024.

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