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West Coast ports opened with a backlog of ships waiting to unload this week, after vessel operations were halted by employers over the weekend.

Phillip Sanfield, a spokesman for the Port of Los Angeles, said 31 ships sat at anchor over the weekend after employers halted loading and unloading. That number was down to 23 by early Monday morning.

The weekend crunch occurred after the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents more than 20,000 dockworkers, and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents terminal operators and shipping companies, failed to reach agreement over a new contract after the old one expired in July.

Freight transporters see a sliver of relief in the shipping backlog if a labor agreement can reach West Coast ports during the Chinese New Year starting next week, when there are several weeks of reduced freight from Asia.

“We could use that time then to work off the backlog that exists at the ports,” said Katie Farmer, vice president of consumer products at BNSF Railway.

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