WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Twenty-nine West Coast ports, including Sacramento and Stockton, will be shut down starting tomorrow and fears are growing over the economic fallout.

Ship owners are forcing the shutdown, accusing union workers of chronic work slowdowns during contract negotiations.

The mammoth cargo ships and giant cranes carry billions of dollars of stuff that will now be stuck for days. Shipping owners are declaring a port shutdown during a labor dispute they blame on union workers.

The Pacific Maritime Association released this statement reading, “What they’re doing amounts to a strike with pay, and we will reduce the extent to which we pay premium rates for such a strike.”

The West Coast port closures will also hit the Central Valley.

One website tracks the cargo ships already lining up along the Northern California coastline. At the Stockton Port right now a ship is coming in. It will be exporting low-sulfur coal to Mexico. Meantime, The Baltic Breeze is already in port. It’s importing steel from Korea.

Only now all the international trade will be put on pause.

“Both those ships could be affected,” said Port of Stockton Director Richard Aschieris.

This steel and coal will stay.

“The port alone, we support more than 4,500 jobs. So there’s a lot dependent on what happens on our docks,” said Aschieris.

Union leaders say the shutdown is an unnecessary tactic, characterizing contract negotiations as close to complete.

“This is really serious. It’s the kind of thing that hurts a lot of people, including small business people, workers and the community,” said International Longshore and Warehouse Union spokesperson Craig Merrilees.

Stalled contract talks are now dealing a crippling blow to local ports.

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