A proposed Port of Long Beach pilot program intended to unclog supply chain logjams fell flat due to unreasonable bureaucratic requirements.
The Southern California port rolled out what sounded like a bold solution to a record-breaking number of cargo ships anchored off the coast. Until recently, port officials indicated that rarely has more than one ship ever been left in limbo. But with supply chains overwhelmed, reports coming out of the region have cited more than 70 ships in limbo and upwards of a half-million shipping containers stuck in the bottleneck.
“Part of the problem is the ships are double or triple the size of the ships we were seeing 10 or 15 years ago,” Marine Exchange of Southern California executive director Kip Louttit reportedly said. “They take longer to unload. You need more trucks, more trains, more warehouses to put the cargo.”
That’s largely why California port officials touted an initiative to make ports available 24/7. The bold announcement included an opportunity for truckers to additionally pick up containers between 3-7 a.m., Monday to Thursday. Although the rollout comes up far short of the theoretical non-stop working port, adding pickup hours should have resulted in reduced congestion.
“So far, we have had zero deliveries,” Total Terminals International (TTI) chief executive Bill Peratt reportedly said. “We want to gather information, make adjustments, and see if we can change behaviors.”
But owner-operators, freight carriers, and drayage companies agree that the policies associated with the added hours make it impractical to buy-in. For example, truckers are only allowed to make an appointment to pick up containers if they can drop off another that precisely mirrors the one they haul away. Getting everything to synch up makes after-hours endeavors too complicated.
“We’re also storing thousands of empty containers at our yards because we don’t have the ability to return them,” Harbor Trucking Association CEO Matt Schrap reportedly said. “The marine terminals are either out of space, or they’ve reached the allocation limit the steamship lines have given them for that particular type of container.”
The idea of transitioning major Southern California ports to 24/7 usage was laudable, albeit flawed. Officials at the neighboring Port of Los Angeles took a wait-and-see approach, and the initial response has not raised confidence. The fact that truckers are still operating with an hours-of-service extension and no one is taking advantage of the additional pickup times indicates bureaucratic hiccups have freight haulers bogged down in the minutia.
“I commend TTI for what they are trying to do,” Schrap reportedly said. ”But if you can’t get the appointment in the first place because it doesn’t line up, then it doesn’t make a difference.”
Sources: freightwaves.com, wsj.com, businessinsider.com
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