The International Longshoremen’s Association inched closer to final approval of a new labor contract, officials said Wednesday.

A 200-member committee recently recommended approval of the new six-year labor contract. The contract now has to be ratified by ILA’s 14,500 members and members of the United States Maritime Alliance, the group represents shipping lines, terminal operators and port associations.

“We’re obviously pleased we were able to reach an agreement with the ILA and now look forward to the final ratification votes and completion of local bargaining,” USMX Chairman and CEO James A. Capo said in a written statement. “Given the industry’s essential role in the U.S. economy, it’s vitally important that we’ve resolved our differences and have come to an agreement, preventing any disruption of port operations.”

The ILA and the alliance, which represents shipping lines, terminal operators and port associations, have been tangled in contract talks for several months.

The union last year threatened to strike and cripple more than a dozen ports, including Charleston’s, but that was averted.

One of the major sticking points between the two sides was the renegotiation of royalty payments of $4.85 per ton of containerized cargo, a fee that funds benefits for longshoremen.

The new contract ensures that for the next six years the carriers will fund the annual royalty payments at $211 million, the amount paid in 2011, plus up to an additional $14 million for administrative expenses, and share equally with the ILA any container royalties that exceed $225 million.

Other contract details include a $1-an-hour wage increase in 2014, 2016 and again in 2017, the final year of the contract. Starting pay for new employees would stay at $20 an hour but they would reach the top wage scale in six years instead of the current nine.

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