NEW YORK (AP) - A federal mediator says he's "cautiously optimistic" that the operators of East Coast and Gulf Coast ports can work out the remaining issues with longshoremen in the next 30 days.
That's how long the current contract is being extended -- giving the port operators and shipping lines another chance to work out a deal with the dock workers and avoid a strike.
The walkout had been threatened for this Sunday. It would shut down operations at ports that handle about 40 percent of all U.S. container cargo.
Negotiations will continue until at least midnight on January 28.
The contract originally expired in September. The two sides agreed then to extend it for 90 days, but it had been set to expire again early Sunday.
Business groups are expressing relief. The head of the National Retail Federation says a shutdown would have a "severe" impact on the local, national and world economies.
Ports that would have been frozen include the massive terminals serving New York City, Houston and Savannah, Ga.
Gov. Rick Scott Comments
"The 30-day extension in the negotiations between the International Longshoremen's Association and the United States Maritime Alliance is certainly good news for Florida. Cargo-related activity at Florida seaports supports more than 550,000 direct and indirect jobs, and contributes approximately $66 billion to our economy. We are hopeful these two organizations will quickly reach a final agreement to permanently remove the threat of a port shut down that would devastate families all across our state. We are asking the President to pursue any means possible - including invoking the Taft-Hartley Act - to avoid a work stoppage in the weeks ahead. A shut down of Florida ports is simply not an option."