Almost all the container terminals at the US west coast port of Los Angeles are now shut as industrial action by clerical workers spreads.

Seven of the eight facilities in the largest container port in the US failed to open this morning, a port spokesman has confirmed.

Ten ships are in port and several more are at anchor waiting for cargo handling work to resume, a port spokesman told our sister publication, Lloyd’s List.

In addition, three terminals in the neighbouring port of Long Beach are also at a standstill because the refusal of dockworkers to cross picket lines.

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Knatz issued a statement this morning calling for new negotiations.

One report said new talks were scheduled to take place this afternoon.

Port clerks working at the APM Terminals-operated Pier 400 at LA went on strike at noon on Tuesday. At almost 200ha, it is the biggest and busiest cargo terminal in the Americas for containerised freight.

The clerks are members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s (OCU), which represents about 800 clerks at local port terminals.

About 67 workers set up a picket line and longshoremen at Pier 400 refused to cross it, shutting down the terminal, sparking fears that the dispute would spread through the port and to its neighbour.

The OCU and harbour employers have been negotiating for more than two years over wages, benefits and job security.

Knatz said: “It’s essential that both sides in this labour dispute return to the negotiating table and resolve this now. We are starting to see ships divert to other ports, including to Mexico.

“This dispute has impacted not only our port work force, but all stakeholders who ship goods through our complex and potentially the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are directly and indirectly related to port operations.

“In today’s shipping environment, we can’t afford to lose cargo or our competitive advantage."

Ray Ortiz Jr, an ILWU Coast Committeeman who represents all 30 longshore local unions on the west coast, said: “Longshoremen stand up when other workers need our help.

"Sure, it’s a sacrifice to give up a paycheck when you refuse to cross the picket, but we believe it’s in the long-term interest of the Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbour area to retain these good local jobs. By standing with OCU, we stand with the community.”