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West Coast and California Logistics Blog

The Latest on West Coast Ports: One Year Since Labor Negotiations Began

Thu, May 28, 2015 @ 08:45 AM / by Weber Logistics

Nearly one year has passed since labor negotiations began in May 2014 between the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union. On February 20, 2015 they came to a tentative 5 year agreement. The ILWU membership voted on their tentative agreement May 22 and approved the contract. The five year contract, which is retroactive to July 1, 2014, will expire on July 1, 2019. 

Looking back a year ago before the negotiations, teamsters picketing, chassis shortage and increased volumes… there was a standard “normal” in efficiencies. Vessel, yard and gate operations have been improving in recent weeks, yet have not returned to normal. Recent articles by the JOC discuss the expectations and challenges of the West Coast ports now and in the near future which can be summarized below: 

Is getting back to "normal" a good thing?

Yes. Getting back to that “normal” is great because it means the ports are on the road to recovery. Since last fall there has been extreme congestion and backlog with a peak of 28 vessels at anchor waiting for a birth to open up. The Marine Exchange of Southern California reported, there were no vessels anchored for many days this month, which is a great sign of recovery. Part of this is due to the increase in ILWU man-hours, which were much higher in April, compared to last year. The terminals added around 60,000 man hours according to the PMA to clear the back log.

Understanding Commercial Warehouse Pricing

What is being done at the ports to improve the situation? 

The West Coast ports have a few action plans to minimize congestion and increase efficiencies. Oakland is considering four measures to prepare for the increasing volume at all the West Coast ports, said port spokesman Mike Zampa. The port is looking at running Saturday gates as a permanent condition, testing new technology to measure gate queue times, looking for off-dock locations where containers can be dropped off and picked up after hours looking at establishing a common chassis pool. Recent innovations in Los Angeles-Long Beach such as container dray-offs to off-dock sites and segregating containers for high-volume importers so truckers can peel off the containers from a single pile without having to go deep into the terminals are producing positive results. The ports intend to expand those programs. Chassis-leasing companies are continuing to collect metrics on terminal requirements and they expect the gray chassis concept to be working as designed by the end of June.

What challenges still remain?

According to Dan Smith, principal at the consulting company, Tioga Group, “The terminals are not designed for big ships”. Smith also said terminals must immediately address operational deficiencies and extend gate hours in order to make it through the peak season. In the longer term they will have to modernize their physical plants in terms of layout and automation in order to handle the big ships. The ports today are still facing the challenges of equipment shortages and increased volumes.

The ports are confident their action plans will be successful in combating current and future challenges. Weber's transportation is extremely aware and knowledgeable of port conditions. We anticipate improvements in the months to come and will be analyzing conditions in preparation for peak season.

Download our Logistics Primer below to learn more about importing to Southern California ports.

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Topics: Southern California Ports, Port Logistics, Drayage, Gray Chassis Pool

Written by Weber Logistics

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