I’ve mentioned over the last half year about the problems at SSA terminal in Oakland. However it is important to note that SSA is not alone when it comes to causing problems for the importing community. Over the past three weeks, we have seen containers at Ports of America take over a week after arrival to become available for a pickup appointment. We recently experienced the same situation with another container at Ben E. Nutter Terminal. From talking to truckers, these problems are widespread across all the Oakland terminals.
Truckers have also advised us that they are being closed out of terminals by early/mid afternoon each day. One local drayage company, Devine Intermodal, discusses this issue in detail on their news site. If truckers are not able to pick up containers in the mid-afternoon, they will not be able to deliver the required number of containers necessary to make a living wage.
At the heart of the matter of terminal efficiency apparently is $$$.
- Terminal operators and the steamship lines that operate them want to save money by limiting the number of longshoremen used each day as well as the amount of overtime paid.
- Longshoremen seem to be flexing their muscles and showing their ability to affect terminal efficiency in recent weeks in the slow buildup to their contract renewal negotiations. Note that the ILWU current contract is set to expire on June 30, 2014.
The end result of these issues is that importers will have to face the following:
- An increase in the cost of trucking if drivers are not able to deliver their usual number of loads.
- Delays in receiving containers as the terminals remain congested.
What is unfortunate is that we do not see a solution in the near future. As the steamship lines continue to lose money in recent years, we have seen them take a number of actions to save money:
- Slow steaming to reduce fuel cost.
- Pushing the responsibility for chassis rental directly onto the backs of importers.
- Limiting the amount of labor used at terminals.
All of these actions add to the total cost that importers have to pay for bringing in their products while at the same time making it very difficult for importers to expedite shipments. I urge that importers in the Oakland and Northern California community plan accordingly and adjust their expectations in the coming year.