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News / Ocean Market
The congestion at Los Angeles and Long Beach ports has been going on for at least two months, but no one expected it to last this long, and no one anticipates an immediate fix – gridlocked docks possibly threatens holiday season. By Deborah Belgum
For nearly two weeks now, Ram Kundani has been waiting to receive seven cargo containers filled with tops, sweaters and dresses shipped from Bangladesh, China and Indonesia to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. But some 10 days after their arrival, the containers on Oct. 21 were still stacked on container vessels as gridlocked docks made it difficult to unload the big metal boxes.
Around this time last year, Aeromax Inc. Chief Operating Officer Sean Schipper could count on getting his toy products shipped from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to his Lake Barrington, Ill., business in seven to 10 days.
But because of recent congestion at the twin ports, it’s taking twice as long — or in some cases three times as long — to get merchandise delivered to the toy wholesaler, which does nearly $5 million in annual gross sales selling children’s costumes and toys.
Contract negotiations between shippers and 20,000 dockworkers at West Coast ports are progressing toward a tentative agreement in November, the head of the largest harbor said.
Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said he speaks daily with negotiators for both sides on a new accord for ports from San Diego to Bellingham, Washington, which together handle almost half of all U.S. maritime trade.
Lines offering Asia to US services will further ramp up charges in the coming weeks by introducing new ‘intermodal door delivery charges’.
Most member lines of the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement will start charging customers US$100 per FEU and USD$90 per TEU on all cargo moving under ‘intermodal store-door delivery through rates’ from Asia to the US.
Asia-U.S. container lines, still heavily reliant on intermodal service, have now been forced to respond with intermodal door delivery charges to recover those costs.
Congested U.S. port terminals, harbor and over-the-road truck and driver shortages, slower trains and longer rail terminal dwell times due to increased domestic rates have not only disrupted service but also driven intermodal rates and cargo handling costs up sharply.
The Port of Los Angeles in September saw its busiest month in eight years, as larger cargo ships called at the port and retailers rushed in goods for the holiday season. The port said cargo volume — including imports, exports and empty containers — rose 9% from a year earlier. The 775,133 container units that passed through the port last month were the most since August 2006. Imports increased 11%, while exports rose just 0.2%, the port said this week.
“Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to see a final surge and set a new monthly record in October as the holiday season approaches, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.”
“Increasing congestion at the nation’s ports as well as the ongoing West Coast labor negotiations are ongoing concerns and retailers are making one last push to make sure they’re stocked up for the holidays,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Retailers are working hard to make sure customers can find what they’re looking for regardless of what happens at the ports.”
“The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles continue to cope with Peak Season congestion, but operations are still sluggish. “While we were not blind-sided by the volumes coming in now, terminal operators may not have expected such a dramatic ebb and flow,” said POLA Director of Media Relations Phillip Sanfield in an interview. It’s a difficult balancing act, with the rate of cargo discharge being the main problem.”
MIQ Logistics wishes to provide information concerning a shortage of chassis in the major ports at both U.S. coasts.