Several carriers have advised that they are limiting rail volumes and closing ramps at Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Chicago, Cicero, Huntsville and Minneapolis for any traffic destined to the Pacific Northwest terminals of Seattle/ Tacoma. This is due to terminal congestion and increased volume at those ports, which is now impacting the rail network. Additional ramps may be added as the problems continue. As RCL has previously reported, the ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) and PMA (Pacific Maritime Association) are currently engaged in contract negotiations, with the PMA accusing the union of staging a work slowdown at west coast ports, and the union countering that the PMA is staging a “media blitz” to blame the union for congestion issues.
Serious vessel congestion also continues in Southern California. According to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, twelve container ships were anchored in San Pedro Bay on Tuesday morning waiting to berth at the ports of Los Angeles. This represents the longest wait time in San Pedro Bay in two years – surpassing the previous record set on Oct. 26 – as congestion continues to crush the largest container gateway in the Americas. In the next three days an additional nineteen container ships are scheduled to arrive; of those, fifteen are due to berth and four are set to anchor. There is usually zero wait time for container ships at Los Angeles-Long Beach, according to Capt. J. Kipling Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of California.
As fears of a possible dockworker strike or lockout grow, The National Retail Federation and other business groups have sent a letter to President Obama, urging that a federal mediator be appointed to help the union and port management reach an agreement before the situation deteriorates further. A six- year agreement covering close to 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports expired July 1 and contract negotiations have been on-going since then.
Many steamship line contracts and tariffs include a provision for surcharges that can be assessed at any time for congestion due to labor unrest. If the West Coast port situation worsens, carriers may begin to assess these surcharges and shippers may find themselves paying unexpectedly higher rates for their shipments.
Shippers and beneficial cargo owners should consider re-routing their cargo via non-affected ports, such as east coast or gulf ports. RCL Agencies has an extensive cargo transportation network, and can provide you with options and rates to help you avoid the current west coast situation – just call or email us!