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Floral importers who rely on cargo ships unloading at East Coast docks breathed a sigh of relief in early February as a potential strike was averted that could have flummoxed importers and caused bottlenecks as they tried to re-route shipments to the West Coast.

“There is a tentative deal for the U.S. East Coast ports, which means no strike for now,” Kelvin Frye, national sales manager for Syndicate Sales in Kokomo, IN, said Feb. 13. “The deal needs to be ratified by the rank and file before it is finalized, but it is a six-year deal and most involved think that it will be ratified without any problems,” he said.

Mr. Frye noted that “vessel skips” — cancellations of shipping or adjustments made because of the Christmas and Chinese New Year holidays and the lack of cargo “may slow down inbound cargo for a bit.” Predictions of a looming dock strike in the first quarter had rattled importers and caused them to scramble for back-up plans, Mr. Frye said.

In Charleston, SC, the State Ports Authority braced for a possible strike in early February by extending operations at its busiest terminals to lessen the impact of a walkout. Two main container docks operated from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Charleston Post & Courier reported that a potential strike was averted in December when the International Longshoreman’s Association and shipping companies agreed to a tentative deal and an extension until Feb. 6 to iron out details. The two sides were in talks over a new master contract, the newspaper said Feb. 1.

The Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service announced the same day that negotiators with the U.S. Maritime Alliance and the International Longshoremen’s Association had reached a tentative agreement for a “comprehensive successor Master Agreement,” subject to ratification by both parties and local unions. “The local negotiations are ongoing and will continue without interruption to any port operation,” the announcement stated.