Terminal operators in Los Angeles-Long Beach are beginning to reduce the vessel backlog built up during the longshore labor negotiations, raising the possibility that the largest U.S. port complex will be back to normal before mid-to-late May as originally expected, the port’s chief executive, Jon Slangerup said on April 1st.
Right now the port is “far ahead of schedule” in recovering from the vessel congestion that developed over several months while the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) battled over a new contract. A tentative five-year contract was reached Feb. 20. Delegates of the ILWU caucus voted last week to recommend the proposal. It now goes to the rank-and-file for ratification. A final tally is expected to be announced May 22nd.
Terminals have increased the hours they are working, and the ILWU is dispatching full work crews, so the terminals are beginning to clear their yards, and they are unloading more containers from the vessels and are turning the ships faster.
Also, the two ports and the three major chassis-leasing companies in Southern California on March 1 rolled out a neutral, or gray chassis “pool of pools,” with full interoperability of the approximately 82,000 chassis in the pools. In most cases now, split moves in which the trucker had to deliver the container to one location and the chassis to another have been limited. Truckers can now deliver the chassis and container to a single location regardless of where the equipment originated.
As terminal congestion is eased, additional cranes will be assigned to each vessel and the ships will be worked back into normal rotations. This will benefit both the Southern California ports and also the Port of Oakland. During the peak of the crisis, a number of lines suspended calls in Oakland in order to get the ships back to Asia faster.
The port authorities of Long Beach and Los Angeles will soon begin discussions on ways to improve operations and to prevent a similar congestion crisis, Slangerup said. The first formal meeting is scheduled for later this month and will bring together all stakeholders, including labor, to identify immediate opportunities to improve container throughput and velocity.
RCL Agencies will continue to monitor the situation at the West Coast ports and provide further updates once available.