Intensified Congestion Drowns Major U.S. Ports

The U.S. is experiencing severe congestion again at the major ports in Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York and Vancouver and foresees no relief until the end of the year.

Terminal operators are spending millions and taking extraordinary steps like running costly “hoot owl” shifts from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. to relieve congestion in their container yards. Still, cargo piles up at a rate of 4.5 percent more containers than the same time last year.

Each terminal operator has a different reason for what may be causing the backlog. One common complaint is the limited chassis availability. Operators are calling chassis the Achilles heel of the modern supply chain due to their frequent need for maintenance and the recent and unforeseen spike in costs. Their lack of availability has filled the shipping yard with containers.

“There are times when the imports are not moving. The numbers are outrageous —6,000 to 7,000 containers just sitting at the terminals,” Pacific Maritime Association President Jim McKenna told JOC Group.

In California, this lack of chassis availability may be stemming from the International Longshore Warehouse Union itself. ILWU members have been reportedly targeting high-traffic terminals and requiring lengthy safety inspections on trucks and chassis far beyond the standard inspection. Working without a contract since July 1 has given the workers few reasons to move traffic along.

“Our sources are telling us the ILWU is purposely slowing down operations,” said Eric Sauer, vice president of policy and government relations at the California Trucking Association.

Another problem at the port stems from the truck driver shortage. At times, hundreds of chassis and containers sit awaiting available drivers. So although terminals are working around the clock to relieve congestion, the rest of the transit system is unable to handle the increased volume at this time.

“We’re using 20 percent more labor to do 1 percent more volume,” McKenna said.

Langham promises to provide as many solutions as possible in this time of frustration. In most cases those solutions include trans-loading cargo and getting it into over the road trucks.  For more information, please contact Deirdre at 855-214-2844.

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