Port OF NYNJ Launches the Terminal Information Portal System (TIPS)

The Port of New York and New Jersey’s Council on Port Performance (CPP) announced that the new Terminal Information Portal System (TIPS) launched on Tuesday, September 1, at 12:01 a.m.

The first system of its kind in the United States, TIPS is a central web portal that enables users to check container availability and export booking status as well as to obtain information on terminal-specific news such as extended hours, holiday schedules or row closures at all six of the port’s container terminals. Users can also use the system to obtain information on empty container return locations and vessel schedules.

TIPS is provided by Sustainable Terminal Services, Inc. (STS), a nonprofit corporation whose members include five of the six marine terminals at the Port of New York and New Jersey. STS developed TIPS in response to a Tier One recommendation of the Port Performance Task Force which led to the current Council on Port Performance. The recommendation called for a port-wide community information system that would give port users a central web platform from which they could access a variety of information to streamline their business processes. Previously, STS developed and implemented the RFID-based truck identification system designed to enhance security and the environmental quality of the port area.

TIPS functionality is available to truckers, beneficial cargo owners, and other service providers.

Click here to reach a secure login at the PortTruckPass website.
Click here to see a list of FAQs for the TIPS system.

While TIPS will eventually provide interactive functionality for empty container return locations and vessel schedules, STS wanted to deliver this central system in advance of the peak shipping season to assist port users.

“Effective information management is critical to an efficient intermodal supply chain. TIPS will help optimize logistics planning and information sharing in the port,” said Molly Campbell, Port Commerce Department Director for The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and Chair of the CPP.

While TIPS is user friendly and very intuitive, a series of brief Web-based demonstrations has been scheduled for all port users who may be interested. These demos will be held on Thursday, September 3rd at 11 AM and 1 PM; on Tuesday, September 8th at 1 PM; and on Tuesday, September 15th at 1 PM. All times are Eastern Standard Time (EST). To RSVP and receive login information, please contact Inga Berryman at iberryman@panynj.gov with your name, affiliation, and desired session.

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.

Long recovery ahead for West Coast ports in aftermath of settlement

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The tentative coastwide contract agreement that was reached Friday evening by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, while most welcome, is just the beginning of a long process West Coast ports must endure to recover from the backlog of containers and vessels that have overwhelmed their operations the past four months, and to restore trust among shippers.

Industry experts agree that it will take months for Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma — all among the 10 largest ports in the U.S. — to return to “normal” operations.

Even then, the old normal will not be good enough to accommodate the cargo surges that occur each week as vessels with capacities of as many as 14,000 20-foot containers descend upon West Coast ports. In fact, the brutal irony of the ILWU work slowdowns, and the PMA’s response of restricting night and weekend work, is that these actions compounded problems that were already occurring anyway because of the arrival of big ships operated by expanded carrier alliances.

The Port of Oakland stated Friday in a press release that it will take Oakland and other West Coast ports six to eight weeks to recover from the cargo backlog. Some industry analysts might say that is an ambitious schedule, given the magnitude of the cargo and vessel backlog at West Coast ports. Some say three months is a more realistic goal.

Furthermore, the tentative contract must now be ratified by the memberships of the ILWU and the PMA, a process that can take several weeks. In past contracts that were marked by work slowdowns, the ILWU did not immediately return to historical productivity levels. This time, the ILWU and PMA reportedly committed to return to full productivity and manning levels immediately. The coming week should determine if both sides are serious about their commitments.

The ILWU and the PMA were not immediately available to answer these and other questions. Will the union in Seattle, Tacoma and Oakland return to historical crane productivity of 26-28 container moves per crane, per hour that was cut in half by work slowdowns beginning in October that the ILWU adamantly denied it orchestrated? Will employers immediately spend the extra money needed to hire full work crews for night shifts and weekends, even though premium pay is required for all work outside of the normal 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-through-Friday shifts?

West Coast ports may actually get a breather soon because the vessels that left Asia this week before Chinese New Year celebrations began will hit U.S. shores in early March. The ports will then have about three weeks of significantly-reduced cargo volumes while factories in Asia are closed for the celebrations, and this could give them a running start at working off the container backlogs that have accumulated in recent months.

West Coast ports will then have to face a harsh reality: importers and exporters, disgusted by months of fruitless contract negotiations, port congestion and public bickering between the ILWU and PMA, will say enough is enough. Retailers and direct shippers in surveys have indicated they will most likely shift some of their cargo volume to East Coast ports. Southeast ports like Charleston and Savannah, which typically experience little to no longshore labor disruption, saw significant increases in volumes in the second half of 2014 due to diversions. Two-thirds of the U.S. population lives east of the Mississippi River. Many of the large retailers that dominate U.S. containerized imports are based there and have extensive retail store networkers in the eastern half of the country. A permanent loss of some cargo for the West Coast is inevitable. That is exactly what happened after the contentious 2002 contract negotiations.

Cargo interests hope that the five-year contract does not simply maintain the current dysfunctional labor relations process on the West Coast until the next contract is negotiated. Enlightened shippers, carriers and labor leaders will want to use the next few years of labor peace to rework the contract negotiation process, for sure, but also to completely revise the long-standing arbitration process that allows the ILWU to hard-time employers over health and safety claims that oftentimes have no health or safety implications whatsoever. 

The PMA highlighted this fact during the heat of the negotiations when it noted that the ILWU lost more than 80 percent of the  claims that were arbitrated during the life of the previous six-year contract.

 

PMA and ILWU reach a tentative agreement

PMA and ILWU reach a tentative agreement

The PMA issued a press release today indicating that they have reached a tentative agreement with the ILWU on a new 5 year contract.  The agreement must be ratified by the union’s membership before it can take effect.

ILWU rally to press employers to resolve chassis M&R issue

Thousands of supporters of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union are expected to attend a rally this evening near the Port of Los Angeles to urge waterfront employers to resolve what has become the most controversial issue of West Coast contract negotiations — jurisdiction over chassis maintenance and repair.

“I beg the PMA (Pacific Maritime Association) to come to a resolution by allowing the ILWU jurisdiction over the chassis issue and bring our economic engine back to efficient operation before we lose business permanently,” said Joe Buscaino, Los Angeles city councilman.

Buscaino organized the rally, and a concert, which will begin at 5 p.m. Pacific time in his San Pedro district. He was quoted in an ILWU release.

Although chassis M&R has been rumored to be a major sticking point in the negotiations since early January, Buscaino is the first person to publicly acknowledge that it has risen to the top of the union’s demands. Neither the ILWU nor the PMA will cite specific issues that have been discussed in the negotiations, which began on May 12, 2014.

PMA spokesman Steve Getzug on Thursday listed four general issues that must be resolved — wages, pensions, jurisdiction and work rules. In past negotiations, the PMA and ILWU have waited until all other issues were resolved before addressing wages and pensions. Those issues are normally settled relatively quickly.

Chassis maintenance and repair is an issue that rattles the nerves of longshore unions on both coasts. After owning, providing and maintaining chassis for more than 50 years, shipping lines in the U.S. trades have sold those assets to chassis-leasing companies and pools in order to escape the huge costs associated with chassis. Since shipping lines and terminal operators are members of the PMA, many, but not all of them, have a contractual relationship with the ILWU for M&R work.

The chassis-leasing companies are not PMA members and they are under no obligation to hire ILWU mechanics for M&R work. The union therefore fears the loss of hundreds of jobs, and has reportedly made three demands in the negotiations regarding chassis. The ILWU wants to inspect every chassis before it leaves the terminal. The ILWU wants jurisdiction over those terminals that have a contractual relationship with the International Association of Machinists, which does chassis M&R work at some terminals. The ILWU also wants jurisdiction over any off-dock sites operated by the chassis-leasing companies.

Employers are not budging on this issue because of the significant liability issues that are involved. For example, a handful of trucking companies own chassis and they perform all of the pre-trip inspections required of asset owners. Trucking executives say that if the PMA gives into the union’s demands, they will sue the ILWU, and the terminal operator, as soon as their chassis are stopped at the gate for inspection.

Furthermore, harbor truckers are already struggling with severe congestion problems at all West Coast ports. Requiring an inspection of every chassis by ILWU mechanics would make the congestion much worse, they said. Also, the IAM could be expected to file suit against the PMA and the ILWU if any attempt is made to break the IAM’s long-standing contracts with some terminal operators.

Meanwhile, the war of words continues as contract negotiations drag on and the ILWU continues to engage in work slowdowns and a refusal to dispatch sufficient skilled labor for key crane positions in the container yards. “Nearly three months ago, the ILWU began a coordinated series of slowdowns intended to pressure employers to make concessions at the bargaining table. Ever since, the PMA and its members have worked hard to counter the growing backlog of cargo that threatens to bring our ports to gridlock,” the employers’ organization said Thursday in a press release.

Buscaino stated in the ILWU release that recent steps taken by employers to eliminate vessel work at nights “is another step closer to a lockout. It’s the wrong time to take the type of actions that will hurt the hard-working residents that I represent,” he said.

Retailers and other shippers, in public statements through trade organizations or private e-mails to JOC.com, said shippers the past three months have devoted a tremendous amount of resources, at great expense, to manage truckers, terminals and carriers during this period of near-gridlock at the ports. Also, a refusal of some terminals to extend free time for equipment is causing demurrage costs to escalate, they say.