February 9 - Following a weekend which has seen the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) temporarily suspend vessel loading and unloading operations at US West Coast ports, it remains to be seen if the PMA will carry out its threat to lockout dockers and sh

The PMA has said that it will carry out the threat if the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) does not immediately accept its contract terms.

"We have a responsibility to let people know of the critical place we're at now," James McKenna, the association's chief executive told reporters during a conference call last week.

Reporters were told by McKenna that if the union refuses its terms then shipping companies and terminal operators will shut down operations and lock workers out of West Coast ports within a week to ten days.

The ILWU responded with a statement that said it feels the two sides are close to an agreement and the threat of a shut down is unnecessary.

"We're this close," said ILWU president Robert McEllrath, who held up two fingers in a gesture indicating how close the parties are to reaching an agreement, according to the statement.

He added, "We've dropped almost all of our remaining issues to help get this settled - and the few issues that remain can be easily resolved."

The statement went on to say that the ILWU pledged to keep the ports open and keep cargo flowing, despite what it describes as the "massive, employer-caused congestion crisis that has delayed shipping for most of 2014."

The ILWU longshore division represents 20,000 dockworkers at 29 west coast ports.