Seems that the problem in Long Beach and Los Angeles is not easy to solve, see here below:
Port of LA chief: ILWU deal needed to fix congestion
Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Oct 20, 2014 2:15AM EDT
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The executive director of the Port of Los Angeles said efforts to fix the congestion problem in Southern California will fall short until the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association negotiate a new contract.
“It’s very important that we have labor on board,” said Gene Seroka. “In order to have labor at the table, we have to have a contract,” he told the Western Cargo Conference of freight forwarders and customs brokers Saturday in Coronado, California.
Port executives in Los Angeles and Long Beach live the congestion problem every day as containers back up on the docks, trucks wait in long lines and angry importers and exporters divert cargo to other ports. “The frustration level is beyond belief,” he said.
To highlight the extent of the congestion, Seroka noted that four of the seven container terminals in Los Angeles are operating above 90 percent utilization.
“When a terminal is at 80 percent of capacity, it is going full bore,” he said.
Industry stakeholders are attacking symptoms of the problem by injecting more chassis into the system and extending free time for containers stranded on the docks due to congestion, but a port-wide solution will not happen without a labor agreement that will allow each segment of the industry to finalize agreements.
Seroka cited two examples of the inertia that has descended upon the ports due to the lack of a coastwide agreement between the ILWU and PMA. Operators of two of the three largest chassis pools received permission from the Department of Justice to discuss development of a neutral chassis pool, but they cannot address the labor rules associated with a gray pool until there is an ILWU contract.
Also, Seroka said Los Angeles has designated three sites in the harbor as overflow yards for the storage of containers and chassis, but there are no takers from terminal operators.
“They can’t make a decision because they can’t talk to labor about maintenance and repair,” he said.
TraPac, a terminal operator in Los Angeles that is automating its facility, accuses the ILWU of go-slow tactics and engaging in unnecessary safety checks of equipment in order to secure manning requirements the employer believes will be excessive once the automation project is completed.
Bobby Olvera, president of ILWU Local 13, told a seminar last week at California State University in Long Beach that the use of unmanned cargo-handling equipment is unsafe. He said additional safety checks on trucks and chassis have resulted from ILWU mechanics finding a defective piece of equipment that presented a safety hazard.
Employers note that some European terminals for the past 20 years have been using unmanned cargo-handling equipment. Also, they say those terminals now have fewer safety issues because there are fewer longshoremen on the docks to get in the way of cargo-handling equipment and trucks.
The waterfront contract has a grievance mechanism through which employers and the ILWU can address disagreements over health and safety issues, but since the previous contract expired on July 1, the grievance machinery can not be used.
Port congestion has become a global problem precipitated by the introduction of especially large container ships operated by carriers in mega-alliances. Seroka said ports known for stellar operations such as Rotterdam, Hamburg and Singapore are reporting congestion issues.
Mega-alliances have added a new layer of complexity to the problem in Los Angeles-Long Beach by “spraying cargo across multiple terminals,” with truckers forced to move from one location to another to match containers and chassis, he said.
Shipping lines, terminal operators, truckers, railroads, the ILWU and the ports should all be meeting as a group to address the serious congestion problems, but the ILWU will not be at the table until it has a contract. Unless a tentative agreement is reached immediately, the situation could drag on until the end of the year, Seroka said.
That’s because reaching a tentative contract is only the first step. The ILWU and PMA must each meet with their respective members and call for a vote on the tentative agreement. That process can take 30 to 45 days, which brings it into the holiday period.
Seroka urged brokers, forwarders and their importer and exporter customers to “put pressure” on the PMA and ILWU. “It all begins with a contract. We all have to have a sense of urgency,” he said.
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