Cosco, China's leading container carrier, is consolidating its US operations as part of a major cost-saving exercise. The firm plans to shift customer service and documentation functions from its Cosco North America Inc headquarters in Secaucus, New Jersey to other centres, including Chicago and Houston. Up to a quarter of the company's 200 staff have been offered relocation packages, although some are expected to opt for redundancy. The move will take place between October and December this year.
The company's rail and intermodal business units are also involved in the consolidation. Cosco-owned logistics company IBS has moved its US west coast operations to Henderson, Nevada. Cosco is also under- stood to be closing down its San Francisco and Seattle offices and moving certain responsibilities to Henderson and Houston, Texas. Some tasks are being returned to Shanghai head office. Sources suggest that another division, the carrier Seatrade, will move its operations from Los Angeles to Toronto, although this yet to be confirmed.
Cosco rejects claims that its plans are aimed at diluting the influence of US trades unions, which are striving to boost their membership and strengthen their industrial clout, especially in the shipping and port sectors. It is one of several Asian shipping companies to come under pressure from the International Longshoreman Association (ILA). On news of the consolidation plans, ILA members picketed Cosco's New Jersey offices.
Other companies such as China Shipping Group, which has already moved some of its business from New Jersey to Houston, and Taiwan's Evergreen have been similarly targeted. The ILA has been attempting to unionise up to 120 staff at Evergreen America, based in Morristown, New Jersey. Chinese companies are anxious to avoid confrontation with US unions.