FILE – Seattle Cargo Ship

A Hapag-Lloyd AG cargo ship sits parked near the Port of Seattle, Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(The Center Square) – A potential nationwide strike by more than 100,000 freight railroad workers could impact domestic and international trade in Puget Sound.

The Northwest Seaport Alliance manages the marine cargo operations of the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma. Melanie Stambaugh, the director of communications at NWSA, told The Center Square in an email that they are “certainly tracking the rail issue and potential impacts closely” regarding a possible railway strike.

The Seattle and Tacoma ports bring billions of dollars into Washington State. According to the alliance, marine cargo operations at NWSA facilities support over 58,000 jobs while driving the state’s billions of dollars in economic activity.

NWSA handled over $59 billion in imported goods and nearly $16 billion in exported goods internationally in 2021, according to the entity.

However, a decline in cargo shipments in the Seattle and Tacoma ports is being recognized already. NWSA reported that in July, the total container volume for the month decreased 15.9% to 260,572 twenty-foot equivalent units. In 2021, NWSA reported that it handled 3.7 million twenty-foot equivalent units for the year, which was a 12.5% increase from 2020, where it handled 3.32 million units.

The volume of full imports declined 30.4%, and full exports fell 16.8% year-over-year in July. NWSA claims the reduced vessel calls result from delays at other ports and ongoing service suspensions. The alliance could see further delays at its port if a railway strike goes through. It is working to ensure the cost of the strike is minimal.

“Rail service is a key part of the supply chain moving imports and exports across Washington and the country,” Stambaugh said. “We are hopeful for a timely contract resolution and remain in close contact with logistics partners to ensure that port activities remain operational.”

President Joe Biden appointed an emergency board of arbitrators to come up with recommendations for a solution to the looming strike in a 60-day window. That period is set to expire at 12:01 am ET, Sept. 15.

Staff Reporter

Spencer Pauley reports on Seattle and the King County area of Washington. He was previously an independent filmmaker and worked on "The Clinton Affair," a documentary series investigating the impeachment proceedings of former President Bill Clinton.