As import volumes continue to steadily increase during the pandemic, trucking operators are calling on ocean carriers to temporarily suspend detention and demurrage fees at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports as the largest port complex in the United States operates through unparalleled congestion problems.
Harbor Trucking Association (HTA) and California Trucking Association (CTA) are working with carriers, terminal operators and port authorities to address the congestion. If no progress is made soon, the US Federal Maritime Commission could be called in to assist.
“We are hopeful that the beneficial cargo owners will work cooperatively with truckers in order to expedite solutions to move import loads and free up terminal space. We don’t want to see truckers get hit with unavoidable fees.” said WWL President Joe Monaghan.
Los Angeles-Long Beach terminal operators have said they are fixing congestion problems, but it is important to note that it is the ocean carriers, not the ports, that impose detention and demurrage charges.
Import volumes have steadily increased during the pandemic and there are no signs indicating a change. Many NVOs have record high bookings into late November which they expect to continue into 2021.
Heavy Volume Means Labor Shortages
The backup of containers at the ports increases the time it takes operators to do their job. That means there is a shortage of skilled labor. Productivity has decreased because workers are shuffling more containers as the volume continues to increase. Operators continue to be trained, but the volume is so high and growing faster than workers can be trained.
In response to the high volume, APM Terminals Los Angeles and others are offering more truck gates to help with the volume control. This doesn’t come without a price.” Mr. Monaghan said. “Truckers are being told that they can return an empty container only if they take delivery of an import load. This dual transaction system is great, but it’s hard to implement on a constant basis.”
Worldwide Logistics wrote about the problem of container build up at Southern California ports in September. “The high-volume traffic has a domino effect on the supply chain, stressing the entire system,” said Mr. Monaghan. “We will continue to inform our customers on the ramifications of the high import volumes.”