AmericasPorts and Logistics

Port of LA making slow but sure progress with cargo backlog

Los Angeles: The Port of Los Angeles is making “slow but sure” progress in clearing the cargo backlog from the west coast ports labour dispute, and shaping up for the ongoing challenge of “transformative” times in the industry, port media spokesman Phillip Sanfield told Splash on Wednesday.

“The process of clearing the backlog is slow but sure. It should be a couple more months,” said Sanfield. “Today (Wednesday) for example there are 23 ships at anchor for Los Angeles and nearby Long Beach, plus 18 at berth in LA.

“Under normal circumstances we would have no ships at anchor, they’d be able to go straight into a berth. That’s what we want again.”

While the labour dispute drew the headlines, Sanfield emphasised it’s only part of the picture.

“It’s not just the labour issue we have learned from, but changes in the entire supply chain. The industry is undergoing extraordinary changes, mainly because much larger ships are coming in. Where 7,000 TEUs were usual, now we see more ships carrying 14,000 TEU ,” he said

“As a landlord port we see ourselves as a facilitator to help our partners (the private terminal operators and the shipping lines) which are going through transformative challenges because of these bigger ships. For example, we’ve helped them form a generic chassis pool so that operators can get a truck chassis whenever they need.”

He also cited the “peel off” campaign by which cargo flow is improved by streamlining container movement, effectively peeling off containers of high-volume customers to a near-dock yard.

There were fears that the labour disagreements could have permanently cost the west coast ports some customers but Sanfield said the Port of LA is always facing competition.

“What we call ‘discretionary cargo’ is the type we fight most hard for. There’s a lot of competition for this because of Canadian ports, Canadian rail improvements, east coast ports, the expanded Panama Canal. We’re always worried about competition.

“The Port of LA is the busiest port in the nation and we’re spending $1m a day investing in it. We still have a lot of advantages – fast transport times from Asia, a great labour force, and we’re ahead of the game in dealing with the larger ships.”

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Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.
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