The containerized cargo volume at the Port of Oakland is set to increase, as cargo, originally intended for heavily-congested Los Angeles or Long Beach ports, gets diverted to Oakland.
Oakland terminal operators said they were handling hundreds of additional containers weekly originally intended for Los Angeles or Long Beach.
However, as stressed by major U.S. importers and exporters last week at a two-day customer forum, the port has to ensure that the US fifth-busiest seaport can handle the load.
Shippers from Safeway to Tesla Motors urged the port to prepare by optimizing cargo movement and minimizing bottlenecks.
“The Port of Oakland is in a very strong position to handle additional cargo, but the port will need to increase hours of operation with additional gates,” said Joel McClure, Director of International Logistics Import/Export Compliance at Restoration Hardware.
Ten leading brands in retailing, manufacturing and freight forwarding took part in the forum designed to gauge customer attitudes and solicit feedback on ways to make the port more efficient.
They urged terminal operators to help out more so as to ensure smoother movement of imports out of the port to warehouses or store loading docks.
This relates to the need for quicker trucker turn-times in and out of the marine terminal and limited hours of operation at marine terminals.
However, some improvements have been recorded as terminal operators indicated that trucker waiting time has improved in the last half of 2014.
Some facilities have introduced nighttime truck gates and extended hours of operation. At least two have adopted express lanes that get imports out the door in as little as 15 minutes.
The September cargo handling volume at the port was the highest in more than a year. The numbers are expected to stay high, according to Oakland port officials, as shippers divert cargo north to avoid severely congested Southern California ports.
One port executive said an Asian-based container shipping line will divert one of its vessels next week with Oakland as a first port of call replacing Los Angeles. That means the vessel will make Oakland its first West Coast stop for discharge of imports from Asia.
Shippers expressed their approval of first-call service in Oakland. According to the port, it would assure faster delivery of cargo intended for Northern California as well as cargo moving to inland destinations.
Port officials added that Oakland does not have the level of congestion currently delaying cargo in Southern California. They said there is available capacity bolstered by the addition of new cargo handling equipment. There’s also a satisfactory supply of chassis, the trailers truckers use to haul containers.
Strong cargo volumes continued into early November at the Port of Long Beach as well, resulting in delays due to a shortage of truck trailers.
The port of Long Beach said it was working to establish a more consistent supply of truck chassis and was coordinating with all stakeholders to solve the current congestion issues that have slowed some shipments.
“One solution the Port is pursuing is to free up more of the chassis – the wheeled trailer-frames that carry cargo containers – by finding a place in the Harbor District to receive and temporarily store the empty containers that terminals may not have room for at this time. This allows truckers to use a chassis to carry a loaded container, rather than sit idle with an empty container,” the port said in a release.
The port said it was working with the L.A. counterpart to gain permission to collaborate further on finding solutions since both ports are experiencing similar issues.
World Maritime News Staff; Image: Port of Oakland