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Scott Satchfield / Eyewitness News
Email: ssatchfield@wwltv.com | Twitter: @satchfield

NEW ORLEANS -- It was business as usual on the river Wednesday in the downtown area, but traffic could take a major hit in just a few days.

In 10 days the port of New Orleans could see a major disruption in business because of a contract dispute over container shipping, which could lead to a strike at 15 ports along the East and Gulf coasts.

'Right now, all signs are pointing to a potential strike once the contract expires on Dec. 29,' said Jonathan Gold with the National Retail Federation.

That is, if the International Longshoremen's Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance don't agree on a new contract.

Gold explained what that could mean for the economy in New Orleans and beyond.

'This is an issue that impacts everybody who relies on the ports -- everybody from importers, exporters, manufacturers, farmers and other logistics industries, including trucking and rail, who all rely on the port to move the nation's commerce,' Gold said.

Port of New Orleans officials said they're optimistic the two sides will hammer out a deal.

In a statement, officials said, 'A work stoppage at this time would interrupt the slow steady national economic recovery process and this could be detrimental to all parties.'

Parties connected to 15 ports along the East and Gulf coasts, from Maine to Texas.

'If we look back at history, the last time we had a coast-wide shutdown for the ports was in 2002 with a 10-day lockout that shut down the entire West Coast and all the ports there,' Gold said. 'Economists say that 10-day lockout cost the U.S. economy about $1 billion a day and took over six months to fully recover from.'

This contract dispute only stands to affect container shipping and would not interrupt other business through the port, things like the cruise industry.

It's unclear when or if the two sides will resume talks ahead of that Dec. 29 deadline.

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