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Ports & Terminals

Porcari, Cordero & Seroka cite collaborations that reduced port delays

John Porcari, the Biden Administration’s Port Envoy, has worked with U.S. ports to address the traffic jam of ships, trucks, and rail, says supply chain bottlenecks are easing as a result of collaboration with maritime supply chain stakeholders.

Porcari, who was speaking at the Trans-Pacific Maritime 2022 conference in Long Beach produced by the Journal of Commerce, noted: “Ports are no longer at the kiddie table” of transportation decision-making. He added that the Biden Administration’s bi-partisan infrastructure law will invest $17 billion in U.S. ports and that there will be a three-pronged focus on investments 1) in ports 2) outside and in support of ports and 3) in data sharing.

When Porcari began working with ports to address supply chain bottlenecks in July of 2020, he said that some data sharing between goods movement companies and ports was still not data that could be effectively shared because it was on “spread sheets, which is a situation that is not acceptable.”

Today, he says more companies and ports are sharing data which allows for better planning and projections.

Porcari said he has been working with ports to streamline operations including moving toward 24/7 operations, emphasizing more prioritization of cargoes to move off and on the docks and use of land for storage.

He noted that container terminals at ports cannot be expected to operate on a 24/7 basis when truckers and warehouses do not. He said more collaborations between companies is needed to increase the number of hours utilized moving freight. At the same time, terminals can use nighttime hours to clean up and prepare for the next workday shift.

In the case of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Porcari hailed collaboration to find more storage space for containers on and off Port properties to free up space and move cargo off the docks. He noted that some federal land has also been used for storage.

Porcari responded to a question about whether U.S. ports should invest more in automation of container terminals posed by JOC reporter Bill Mongelluzzo who noted that the automated Long Beach Container Terminal (LBCT) at the Port of Long Beach recently completed its final phase of construction and can now process over 3 million TEUs.

Porcari responded that a multi-faceted approach is necessary: “There are many ways to increase throughput.”

Porcari said the decision to assess carriers on containers that had not been moved off the terminals was fortunately an assessment that was not enforced but had a positive effect on reducing the logjam at the docks.

In an October 27th press release, the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles announced that they would assess the ocean carriers $100 per container per day if they failed to move containers off marine terminals by truck and by rail:

Following Porcari’s presentation, the decision was cited by Gene Seroka, executive director Port of Los Angeles and Mario Cordero, executive director, Port of Long Beach as a difficult decision but a necessary one to relieve congestion at the two ports.

Back in October, Cordero defended the decision stating “both myself and my colleague Gene Seroka (executive director Port of Los Angeles) we have a directive that we have to address to move this cargo and not everyone is going to be happy about the way we do this. I am asking everyone to have that collaborative spirit to address a crisis we have before us.”

Cordero noted that the two ports also successfully pushed ocean carriers to deploy so-called sweeper ships to move empty containers off the docks and transport them back to Asia: “At the time, the carriers told us: We can’t help you. We have no ships ... But then they found 34 ships that moved 86,000 containers in the month of February.”

The result, Cordero said, is that there were 109 ships awaiting to unload at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in January but only 58 ships waiting to unload at the two ports by the end of February.

Seroka said that a great deal of credit for the two ports weathering the bottlenecks and delays at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach should go to the men and women of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) who endured the ravages of the COVID pandemic while “working six days a week to keep our ports open.”

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis

WEST COAST CORRESPONDENT

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