Los Angeles, Long Beach ports expect to be back to normal in three months

Top executives described initiatives to improve flow of cargo off docks at the nation’s two largest ports during the TPM conference in Long Beach.

The top executives of the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach said Tuesday they think it will take about three months to clear up the container backlog that built up at their ports during the final months of contract negotiations between employers and longshoremen on the West Coast.

   “We need about three months to get back to a sense of normalcy,” said Gene Seroka, the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles at the TPM transpacific maritime conference in Long Beach. “If we under commit and over deliver, that would be the primary goal.”

   He said that Tuesday morning there were 29 ships at anchor, 20 of which were containerships at anchor outside the port and more than two dozen “hovering and pointed our way” from outside of the emission control area that extends 200 miles off the coast of the U.S.

   The gray chassis pool that went into effect at the two ports this week will give more maneuverability between terminals for both ships and trucks and drive recovery of the ports more quickly, said Seroka.

   He said last week Pasha opened a facility near container terminals where chassis can be maintained and repaired. He also said that the drayage company TTSI hopes to use the property for “peel offs,” programs where draymen can remove large blocks of containers rapidly from terminals. The container would be temporarily stored on chassis in an off terminal lot where they can be relayed to other drivers.

   Seroka said if the program is successful, the port will roll out other opportunities for truckers to expedite shipments and minimize the amount dwell time for containers at terminals.

   Jon Slangerup, the chief executive officer of the Port of Long Beach, said his port is also “trying to provide relief valves where ever we can,” including an off-dock container yard where empty containers can be stored, which is now being modified so that it can also be used to store wheeled empty containers that can be used for peel-offs.

   The ports are becoming much more operationally involved and supportive and investing $4.5 billion investments at the port’s railroad, terminal, and highway, including the replacement for the Gerald Desmond Bridge, according to Slangerup.

   Seroka said that about a third of the cargo that moves through the ports is discretionary and that in late 2014 and the first months of this year “cargo has moved away” to East Coast ports.

   Globally there are more than 285 vessels with capacities between 7,500 TEUs and 18,000 TEUs on order to be delivered by 2016, said Seroka, and ports must continue to build capabilities to handle them as well as regain confidence of both cargo owners and shipping lines.

   Slangerup noted that last month the FMC authorized revisions to the discussion agreement between the two ports to include supply chain authorization. He said the two ports will begin those discussions later this month.