By Mark Abrams

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The looming possibility of a strike by the International Longshoremen before the end of the year has Philadelphia officials already making contingency plans.

Robert Blackburn is senior deputy executive director for the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority. He says the Packer Marine Terminal has stepped up operations in recent days to get cargo already there out to customers before any possible job action. He says the union has signaled the port its intentions.

“If there is a strike, we are being led to believe that the strike will be only on containerized cargo. It will not affect break-bulk cargo, which we handle a lot of, or automobiles which is another one of our bigger cargoes.”

Break-bulk cargo is generally shipped in bags or boxes, crates or drums or barrels and is placed on pallets or skids.

But Blackburn conceded there are a lot of goods shipped in large containers today as well and that any strike could severely impact operations in Philadelphia and beyond.

He says he’s hopeful cooler heads will prevail and a new agreement can be hammered out between the union and the USMX group – which represents the port employers – by the Dec. 29 deadline.

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