In another illustration of the enormous variety of events that can threaten companies’ supply chains, the “Occupy Movement” is calling for a shutdown of all West Coast ports on Dec. 12. The movement's declaration came about three weeks after thousands of Occupy Oakland protestors halted nighttime operations at the Port of Oakland on Nov 2.
Of course, coming from the leaders of a famously leaderless coalition known mostly for its lack of organization, the call to action could well produce no action in the end. It has had one affect already, causing a rift between the Occupy Movement and the powerful International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The ILWU voiced support for the Oakland protest, but a letter from the ILWU Coast Committee in San Francisco to their West Coast locals warned that groups outside of the union “intent on driving their own agendas” are using ILWU issues to pursue their own goals. Furthermore, the committee reminded the longshoremen that public demonstrations are not picket lines under the waterfront contract.
In order to effectively shut down West Coast ports, the Occupy Movement would have to position so many demonstrators at the entrances to the ports that they would present a safety threat to longshoremen attempting to report to their jobs. An arbitrator ruled that such a condition existed in the Occupy Oakland demonstration.
On land or sea, there are always risks to your goods. The container ship that broke up on a reef off of New Zealand, and the “reefer” containers that exploded upon handling in port, causing longshoremen to refuse to unload refrigerated containers, are two more recent examples. Just be sure your contingency planning isn’t “dead in the water.”