U.S. West Coast Ports Hit by Congestion ahead of Tariff Deadline

Port of Long BeachIllustration; Image Courtesy: Port of Long Beach

The ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are being overwhelmed with unprecedented import volumes as larger vessels are being deployed to accommodate increased cargo volumes as tariff deadline looms.

The United States and China have called a truce on new 25% tariffs on USD 200 billion worth of Chinese products as the two sides discuss the terms of their trade relations. The 90-day truce started on December 1.

The latest turn of events saw China issue a request with the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the establishment of a panel to review the imposition of tariff measures by the US on certain goods from China.

“We’re seeing unprecedented levels of cargo at the Port of Long Beach. Marine terminal operators, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, shipping lines, truckers and other stakeholders are working hard to manage resources,” Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero told World Maritime News in a statement on the matter.

The port could not provide WMN with data on waiting times and the number of vessel being delayed.

“Although the ports are trying to effectively manage this unforeseen increase in volume, every aspect of port operations, from labor and equipment supply to vessel and yard operations, to truck and rail availability is being stretched and contributing to congestion, gridlock and delays,” Taiwanese shipping company Yang Ming said in a customer advisory.

As explained by the company, cargo availability continues to be a leading problem as extra vessels and resultant labor shortages are causing berth congestion and delays.

“However, chassis shortages, despite an increase in chassis pools, have quickly become the key factor significantly impacting the flow of cargo in and out of the terminals contributing to terminal congestion. Reportedly, importers who typically hold containers for up to three days in many instances are now holding them for up to a week,” Yang Ming added.

According to Cordero, Chinese New Year should provide a breather and allow the supply chain to recover a bit before cargo flows resume in earnest over the course of the coming weeks.

“The port is working closely with all of our partners to move containers through the harbor and we thank everyone for their patience,” he added.

“We urge our customers to make delivery arrangements as soon as their containers become available and return them to the designated terminals timely. Please be reminded that containers not picked up or returned timely are subject to applicable charges,” Yang Ming cautioned.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia is leading a delegation from the Port of Long Beach to Southeast Asia to discuss trade, commercial opportunities and investment.

Over nine days, the delegation will visit Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam, to sit down with industry organizations and trade officials and discuss attracting and retaining more business. The Port of Long Beach had its best year on record in 2018, having surpassed 8 million TEUs, as cargo grew more than 7 percent.

Port officials expect trade gains in 2019, but at a more conservative pace than last year as more mature effects of the U.S.-China trade war hit.

“With so much at stake on both sides of the Pacific, we believe the United States and China can resolve their differences and keep our economies growing,” Cordero said while delivering a speech on state of the port earlier this month.

The Port of Los Angeles moved more cargo in 2018 than any time in its 111-year history, racking up 9.45 million TEUs, 1.2 percent more than 2017’s record-breaking year. It was the third consecutive year of record volumes for the port.

World Maritime News Staff

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