Port strike averted

New York City -- A federal mediator announced Friday that the union for longshoremen along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico has agreed to extend its contract for 30 days.

The extension averts a potential strike that could have crippled operations at ports that handle about 40% of all U.S. container cargo, and it comes after the union and an alliance of port operators and shipping lines resolved a royalty payment issue that had held up contract resolution. Exact terms have not been made public.

Negotiations will continue until at least midnight on Jan. 28. Some important contract issues remain to be resolved, but the head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, George Cohen, said the agreement on royalties was "a major positive step forward."