How did the West Coast Dock Strike Affect the Nation's Supply Chains?

FOR RELEASE: December 5, 2002

CONTACT: Kristen Kioa
  ISM Media Relations
  800/888-6276 ext. 3015

(Tempe, AZ) – The Institute for Supply Management™ (ISM), at the request of the Department of Commerce, surveyed 1,500 purchasing and supply management professionals in mid-November regarding the impact of the West Coast Ports situation. Overall, 41 percent of supply management professionals said that the situation harmed their normal supply chain activity, 57 percent said that the situation had no impact, and a few indicated that their businesses benefited from the West Coast Ports situation.

According to some of the 338 respondents, affects of the dock strike included delayed, duplicated, or lost shipments of critical supplies; delayed shipments to customers; a need to break shipments from large to small containers for air freight; shipping all but the heaviest via air; shifts to back-up suppliers; an anticipatory buildup in inventories; and a switch from ocean shipments to air freight or using Canadian, Mexican, or East and Gulf Coast ports.

For 21 percent of businesses, the alternatives to shipping through the West Coast Ports came at considerable expense; for another 20 percent, alternatives came at modest expense. Nine percent of the respondents had or used no alternatives (no alternatives reflected problems caused by the complexities of clearing customs, the weight of products being shipped, and a reliance on particular brands). As a follow up, ISM asked respondents if they had a viable alternative should the dispute not be settled. Twenty-five percent of the respondents said that they were making contingency plans; another 34 percent said they were not.

Overall, considering the comments given by respondents which provide a broad array of evidence concerning the strike's impact, the ISM survey suggests that some businesses were hurt by the West Coast Ports situation. The situation included labor-management negotiations, an alleged work slowdown, a 10 day lockout, and the start of a Taft-Hartley cooling off period on October 9. Additionally, many media outlets reported a substantial backlog at the West Coast Ports during the lockout, but little if any by early November.

The Institute for Supply Management™, is the world's leading educator of supply management professionals and is a valuable resource for decision makers in major markets, companies, and government and reflects the increasing strategic and global significance of supply management. For further information, see the ISM Web site at

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