Nothing good seems to be happening in Los Angeles, problems just keep coming one after the next.
Firstly, we have just been through the struggle of the port strikes in the west coast, and it has only been a few months since International Longshore Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) had come to an agreement.
Everyone is hoping that it is time for a recovery.
In light of that, trouble seems to keep finding its way back. It is true things have gotten better as arriving vessels are worked on in a more timely fashion. However, there is no call for celebration just yet while port drivers are striking in the Los Angeles port. How will this affect us?
Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, CA is one of the United States’ largest port complex hubs and we have already felt in the ILWU and PMA dispute the crippling effect of its disrupted port operation. Port drivers are essential to the operation in transporting containers from yard to rail ramps. Now these drivers are picketing, striking against four main companies: Intermodal Bridge Transport, Pacific 9 Transports, Pacer Cartage (LA region and San Diego), and Harbor Rail Transport. Drivers and their supporters are picketing these companies in the area outside of the terminal, rail area, warehouses, etc. One of the main reasons drivers are striking is due to unfair pay and treatments. Strikes had started last week, April 27, and continue to be ongoing.
How will this effect transport of containers? Currently, this will not effect merchant pick up from the port to merchant, only delay transferring of cargo to the rail yard. This cargo needs to be loaded on trains that need to go further across the country, such as Chicago, IL Dallas, TX or Atlanta, GA.
Even though these are in effect more about the rail intermodal system. Truckers and their supporters are picketing outside of the terminal, resulting in delays of the merchant driver getting in for their port appointment by congesting entry to the terminal. This could lead to a higher chance of missing a port appointment. In light of this situation, the terminal will not extend free time for missed appointments, so this will result in extra demurrage fee for drivers, in turn for importers and exporters. As of now, it seems like a local problem, but this could turn to a big issue for the whole nation if not properly managed. If this dispute between the port drivers and the 4 companies are not resolved any time soon, containers will not be moved fast enough to rail to go further, resulting in congestion at the port. It has only been happening for a week now, so we may not feel its effect yet. Imagine if this goes on for a few months, rail containers will not be able to move out fast enough, which will result in congestion at Los Angeles/Long Beach port. Once this happens, this issue will be pushed to other ports, vessels will have to be diverted to Oakland, Seattle, or Vancouver instead.
The domino effect will be similar to the recent one that we had felt during the ILWU dispute, but on a smaller scale. If you have urgent cargoes, try to avoid this port for now, and expect further delays. In light of this situation, we need to keep a closer eye on this. Any one car on the highway has the potential to create mayhem on the highway. Let hope the west can solve this minor issue swiftly, before it creates havoc for the rest of us.
By Peter Yang