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Thursday, September 6, 2012 - 12:14pm

Talks Resume In Ports Dispute

National mediators Thursday announced a new round of talks between shipping companies and dock workers along east coast ports, after they broke down a month ago.

A strike could slow the Georgia Ports growing business.

Issues in the labor dispute involve royalty payments and overtime rules to longshoremen based on container weight.

The dockworkers contract expires the end of the month and the conflict has already begun to cause retailers to re-route shipments in anticipation of a strike.

Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz says, some businesses are already anticipating a strike.

"What we have seen we've gotten word from some of our customers that they have shifted a percentage of their cargo just in case as a mitigation kind of protection through the west coast boards."

He says both sides have a mutual interest to resolve the issue.

"I'm still encouraged that they're gonna get together there's still plenty of time between now and the end of this month," Foltz says. "Both sides understand how important it is to convey to our customers the reliability that our ports have been known for so I'm not giving up on it yet. I'm pretty optimistic that they'll get things worked out eventually."

At the annual State of the Ports address Thursday, Foltz announced record cargo volumes.

Savannah is still the fastest-growing port in the nation, growing twice as fast over 10 years as its nearest rival.

A University of Georgia study, says the ports contribute to over 350,000 Georgia jobs as of last year.