Millions of dollars of mostly Asian cargo was stranded off the United States West Coast yesterday after negotiators failed to end a port lockout, which entered its second day. Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) met employers yesterday but remained deadlocked in a long-running dispute over new technology and arbitration issues. Hundreds of vessels have been affected and economists said a two-week siege would have a big impact on the global economy, especially in Asian countries that depend on exports to the US. 'The union presented a comprehensive pension document today and told us that technology is off the table,' said Tom Edwards, north California area manager for the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents the employers. 'Technology cannot be taken off the table,' Mr Edwards said. 'It is the core issue in these talks. We must modernise our terminals and bring our waterfront into the 21st century. The union cannot turn back the clock.' The two sides will meet again this morning. Nervous local exporters are looking to their American consignees for instructions with trade to the US entering its busiest month. The US is Hong Kong's second most important export market after the mainland, taking 21.3 per cent of a re-export trade that last year totalled HK$282.18 billion and 31 per cent of domestic exports totalling HK$47.58 billion. 'Some of the US importers are bound to start asking the local shippers to arrange for air transport alternatives,' said Sunny Ho Lap-kee, executive director of the Hong Kong Shippers Council. 'But then the question becomes, who pays for the added cost?' Air transport can be as much as 10 times more expensive than seaborne shipping while space is limited in the build-up to the busy Christmas season. 'Most of the cargo is shipped free on board, which means the consignee at destination pays the freight bill,' Mr Ho said. 'But if the exporter can't find the space to book, then delivery becomes his problem.' In Hong Kong, carriers and shippers continued to ship the 30,000 boxes a week which on average head for ports from Washington to California. 'There are not many options. It is impossible to line up any contingency plans,' a local carrier executive said. 'You can't have half your fleet sitting idle off the West Coast, just as you can't reject cargo here and have half your fleet idle in Asia. But so far, it is business as usual from the [cargo] origin side.' The PMA, which locked the union workers out after they staged work slowdowns last week, vows it will not reopen the docks until the three-year labour contract, which expired on July 1, is extended. The move would put the ILWU workers back under contract for the duration of the talks and unable to stage work slowdowns. A 10-day port shutdown could cost the fragile US economy as much as US$19.4 billion.