(NBC) -- A strike that could have crippled 15 major ports on the East Coast and the Gulf and put a crimp in the nation's commerce has been avoided after dock workers, port operators and shippers agreed to a deal that extends the workers' contract, a federal mediator said Friday.
The parties settled on a 30-day extension of the contract after a meeting Thursday with Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen, the FMCS said in a statement.
The parties had faced a Saturday deadline for resolving the labor dispute. The International Longshoremen's Association, which represented the dock workers, had threatened to strike a day later.
The strike would have shut down major ports, including the port of New York and New Jersey, the largest on the East Coast and the second-largest port in the U.S. to handle manufactured goods from China.
Earlier Friday, The White House had urged the parties to resolve their differences. The dispute centered on a cap to payments to dock workers based on the weight of the container cargo, known as "container royalties."
"The container royalty payment issue has been agreed upon in principle by the parties, subject to achieving an overall collective bargaining agreement. The parties have further agreed to an additional extension of 30 days (i.e., until midnight, January 28, 2013) during which time the parties shall negotiate all remaining outstanding Master Agreement issues, including those relating to New York and New Jersey," the federal mediator's statement said.