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Congestion Persists at West Coast Ports


There is no post-holiday lull for the twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The ports continue to experience congestion that delays shipment of goods through Inland Southern California to the rest of the nation. Lee Peterson, spokesman for the Port of Long Beach, estimated there is currently an average of six container ships waiting to get into the ports. Those ships are likely carrying clothing to go on sale around Easter and building supplies for spring construction projects, he said in a phone interview.

The ports experienced their Christmas rush August through October. This month they’re facing a Lunar New Year rush, as shippers in Asia push to get their products out in order to take a two-week holiday in mid-February.

Challenges the ports face include a rise in the volume of goods being shipped after the recession ended; a shortage of chassis used to move containers away from the ports; and a six-month labor dispute between dockworkers and shippers, although Peterson said that situation hasn’t caused a slowdown.

This week, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service was brought into negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association after both sides requested mediation.

The ports have taken steps to create a “gray fleet” of chassis, which would make it easier to share the trailers while paying the providers for their use, Peterson said.

The Port of Long Beach also created a temporary storage depot for empty containers. Such measures are like “throwing gravel into the Grand Canyon,” said B.J. Patterson, CEO of Pacific Mountain Logistics LLC and chairman of the Inland Empire Logistics Council.

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