Monday, August 24, 2015

Port Needs Weekend Working at Container Depots to Speed Freight Handling

West Coast Needs Faster Cargo Turnaround After Dispute
Shipping News Feature

US – It seems the recently resolved dock labour problems which once again crippled US ports on the West Coast may have engendered some action in an attempt to restore confidence. Las week the Port of Oakland sent an open letter from Executive Director Chris Lytle to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) following a request from the port’s terminal operators to enable them to work on Saturdays, loading import and export containers to and from trucks and adding a sixth day to the working week to allow freer movement of freight.

The Port boss said opening terminal gates on Saturdays could ease congestion and improve efficiency in Oakland adding however two caveats, namely that the shortage of labour which has already slowed cargo operations be resolved, and that the fee necessary to fund Saturday operations must be reasonable and used exclusively for those operations.

The FMC is currently reviewing the request lodged by the container terminals at a port which already opens its gates at weekends but generally only to allow admittance for vessel operations, rarely for other activities. The new arrangement would open terminals every Saturday for full operations, including gate entry. That would enable harbour truckers to pick-up containerised imports for delivery, drop-off exports or return empties. Mr. Lytle commented:

“The Port strongly supports additional gate hours. There are, however, several points for the Commission to consider.”

Although some West Coast ports are already more flexible than Oakland many of the larger terminal operators, APM Terminals in Los Angeles for example, are closed for the whole weekend. Although the Port of Oakland doesn’t operate marine terminals it publicly supports Saturday working as part of a broader plan it has developed to speed up cargo delivery, with offsite locations to collect empty containers and a common pool of container chassis for harbour truckers.

The elephant in the room is of course the labour situation, a shortage of staff seriously reduced productivity throughout the summer, slowing the post dispute recovery, and the port is first to state that more dockworkers are needed to ensure Saturday operations can be successful.