port strike

West Coast Ports Still Open … Sort of… Maybe… Perhaps… Perhaps Not…

The word of the day is ambivalence. The title of the newsletter describes exactly how I feel about the West Coast port situation. Here is what we do know.

  • We haven’t heard of a terminal shutting down through the first three days of this week. Yay!
  • The PMA indicated that they will suspend vessel operations for four days during this holiday weekend. Boo!
    • Thursday, 2/12 (Lincoln’s birthday – holiday)
    • Saturday, 2/14 and Sunday, 2/15 (Weekend – similar to what happened last week)
    • Monday, 2/16 (Washington’s birthday – holiday)
  • The ILWU has claimed that the two sides are “this close” to an agreement. Yay!
  • The PMA mentioned on Wednesday that the ILWU’s latest contract demands are ridiculous. Boo!
  • Maersk has announced more vessel sailings to Oakland will be discontinued with containers stranded in Los Angeles. Importers will have to pay for moving the containers to Oakland from their own pocket. Boo!
  • We have not seen other carriers follow Maersk’s lead on this yet. Yay!

I get the feeling that we are close to a port shut down and at the same time so close to a contract agreement. If there was certainty of a port shutdown or of a contract agreement in the coming week, importers and exporters would be better positioned to make decisions regarding how to act. However this uncertainty leaves the shipping community feeling paralyzed.

Even if a contract is agreed upon in the coming week, it is going to take months to reduce the congestion. The one thing we should continue to expect in the coming months is congestion.

-Jimmy Ting
Great World
t: 650-873-9050 x1019
email: jimmyting@gwlcorp.com

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Truck Protest at the Port of Oakland Today (Monday, December 8, 2014)

Conditions at the West Coast port terminals have seriously deteriorated in past weeks. I have been writing about how horrible conditions have become awful in the past month. Apparently, drivers at the port of Oakland have had enough. We received a message last Friday from one local trucking company that drivers at the Oakland port were intending to protest at the port terminals today, Monday, December 8th. We have confirmed this morning that many trucking companies are indeed facing a protest. Here is a message from one our local drayers:

Today , drivers have not shown up for work  in support of the truckers work stoppage  against the unreasonable delays at the terminals and to highlight their complaints against Union workers. We have learned that numerous drivers, including our own independent contractors, have agreed not to work , either to join their support to the protest, or out of fear for their safety.. Moreover, several transportation companies will not be sending their drivers to the terminals on the day of the protest.

This protest at the port of Oakland is unfortunate in timing, but should not come as a surprise. We have seen the West Coast terminal situation become absolutely unbearable as truckers are not able to consistently get into the terminals to pick up and return containers.

I would like to also share a snapshot of messages we have received this past week from what we consider to be some of our long standing most trusted trucking partners along the U.S. West Coast.

  • “There most likely will be demurrage charges for this container. We will only accept if you guys guarantee demurrage for however many days we need to pull container. Also, once your container becomes available, we won’t be able to schedule until the LFD. We have too many demurraged containers at the moment. Please confirm. Thanks”
  • ​”Well received and even we got the order days ahead before the arrival, there’s no sufficient time to pull out containers from terminals. Due to terminals congestion, we don’t guarantee pickup of containers on or before the LFD​​. Please provide allowance for additional chassis usage because we’re havi​​ng problems on the return too.  Thank you.”
  • “Notes:  Due to the current situation at Oakland Port, we will not be ​responsible for DEMURRAGE CHARGES if container​ ​is not p/u before the last free date​. In order to process the order and assured that we received the document we​ ​will acknowledge receipt of your order by providing a REFERENCE#. If we do​ ​not reply, please contact us immediately”​

The reality is that there is no guarantee these days that a driver going into a terminal will be able to get out of a terminal in any reliable time frame, if at all. In the past, trucking companies were able to schedule drivers to arrange pickups and deliveries ahead of time with a basic amount of certainty. However under current conditions, trucking companies are having to turn away pick up and delivery requests because they just cannot be sure their drivers will be available to successfully get into a terminal. If the trucker does accept the delivery order, they are requesting that we provide a flexible time frame for actually retrieving the container. This means that there WILL be a possibility that a container may not be picked up until AFTER the last free day. This means there may be BOTH demurrage charges to be paid to the terminal AND waiting time charges to be paid to the trucker. In the case of the port of Seattle and Tacoma, we ask that importers be aware that trucking companies are having extreme difficulty even returning empty containers. This can lead to storage and detention charges on empty containers.

Many of our long time trucking partners have turned away a large amount of business in recent months. This turning away of business has only accelerated in recent weeks with various truckers already stating they are booked through much of the month of December.

I have been pleading with our customers to be patient and flexible in this time. If we are assisting you with your trucking moves, this means that we ask that you be understanding if we indicate that we are looking for drivers that can assist with a delivery. You may find that we are using alternative trucking companies outside of normal ones you are used to working with. We ask that you be understanding if we indicate that there may be demurrage and/or special waiting time/congestion charges associated with a pickup.

Great World is first and foremost a service company that has the best interests of our customers at heart. We value our long term partnership with our customers and believe strongly in building mutually beneficial relationships. This is an extremely trying time. We ask that you work with us as well as the trucking community to get through it.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

-Jimmy Ting
Great World
t: 650-873-9050 x1019
jimmyting@gwlcorp.com

Crisis at West Coast Ports

BREAKING NEWS Update: 5pm, November 7, 2014

Los Angeles / Long Beach – 4 of 11 terminals shut down today due to ILWU walkout

Oakland – SSA Terminal shut down today at 2pm due to ILWU walkout

I would be surprised to see longshoremen working on Monday. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

_____________________________________________

For months now, importers and exporters at U.S. West Coast ports have been dealing with massive congestion that has only gotten worse during the peak season. There are quite a few articles written recently detailing the numerous contributing factors that have led to the current logjam at the ports. Of these factors, the one that now threatens to tip the ports from massive congestion to complete standstill is the ILWU – PMA contract stand-off.

The ILWU has been working without a contract since July 2014. The ILWU and PMA have maintained press silence since that time. However the PMA broke the silence when they announced earlier this week that the ILWU was purposely slowing down productivity in the Pacific Northwest ports (Seattle / Tacoma). This slowdown purportedly began last weekend.

What is more dangerous, if what we are hearing is true, is that similar slowdown tactics have spread to Los Angeles / Long Beach terminals in recent days. Los Angeles / Long Beach terminals are already on the verge of collapsing under the weight of all the containers they are trying to process. We already have seen regular vessel delays in Los Angeles of at least a few days for each vessel.

The greatest fear right now is that if the slowdown does spread, the PMA and terminal operators may feel that they have no alternative but to lock out the ILWU. This would lead to a disastrous port shutdown, similar to the one experienced in 2002.

Importers and exporters are advised to ship with extreme caution and understanding of the fragility of the current situation at the U.S. West Coast ports. Those who have the option to ship via other ports would be wise to begin doing so until this current unrest settles.

The situation is one that may be changing daily. I will keep everyone updated. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

-Jimmy Ting
Great World
t: 650-873-9050 x1019
email: jimmyting@gwlcorp.com

LA-Long Beach Port Strike Now Entering 4th Day

We are now entering the 4th day since the clerical workers began striking at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The longshoremen continue to honor the strike, keeping most of the terminals shut down. There are three terminals (PIER A, PCT and B-136) in Long Beach that are open. These terminals are open because they do not employ OCU clerical workers.

We have yet to see many vessels begin to divert from Los Angeles/Long Beach. However with a number of vessels set to arrive this weekend and already arrived vessels continuing to remain unworked on, we may see carriers forced to divert vessels in the coming week. Carriers are giving us daily status reports. Most are taking a wait and see approach. This may change at a moments notice. Importers who are expecting their cargo to arrive in the coming weeks should continue to brace for long delays.

Importers with new bookings for containers moving via rail to inland locations may want to consider carrier services that transit via Canada (via Vancouver or Prince Rupert). Some inland destinations that have carrier service through Canada include Chicago, Cleveland, Memphis, Minneapolis, Detroit. Please contact us if you want to inquire into specific inland rail destinations not listed here.

-Jimmy Ting

jimmyting@great-world.com