Ports sues parties embroiled in labor dispute at internat’l dock

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rico Ports Authority filed suit Monday against maritime cargo handling company Luis Ayala Colón (LAC) and the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 1740 over the fees it has failed to collect on containers that have been unable to reach the island due to a labor dispute between the parties.

The suit filed in San Juan Superior Court says Ports has tried to allow the parties to resolve the dispute on their own but “the controversy has escalated and is interfering with Ports Authority powers to keep the ports open.”

Ports says that while some ships have visited the island, they have not been able to unload cargo.

Some six ships have not been able to dock at the ports, including the ships GH Papero, Dole America, Minerva, Scorpius, Northern Diplomat and Fouma. Another ship cancelled a programmed arrival.

Ports said it collects a dockage fee that is calculated using a mathematical formula based on the weight of the ship, wharfage, a surcharge, a fee for scanning trucks using an x-ray system, and harbor dues.

“Due to the dispute between LAC and the ILA, the Authority has not been able to charge, and will continue to be unable to charge as long as said dispute continues. …” the lawsuit says. “This has caused, and continues to cause, damage to the Authority.”

Ports says it has missed some $400,000 in fees.

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia has called for federal intervention in the labor conflict between the ILA and LAC, according to a press release from La Fortaleza over the weekend.

The governor also said Monday that he was consulting the Puerto Rico National Guard to see if they could intervene. The governor has also sought the assistance of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and the National Labor Relations Board.

“We have to resolve this soon,” Pierluisi said at a news conference.

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