U.S. West Coast Update: Congestion Levels Steadily Shrinking

According to multiple media outlets, ports along the U.S. West Coast continue to battle record levels of congestion that grew most severe during a four month period from November 2014 through February 2015. Below, please find brief status updates for the largest ports impacted:

• Los Angeles & Long Beach: Officials from both ports remain optimistic that current congestion levels, which in the case of Southern California have developed over a one year period, are slowly waning. “Cargo flow has improved since the end of February and throughout March,” commented Gene Seroka, Executive Director of the Port of LA. “ILWU labor is back strong at our terminals.” In addition to overcoming labor slowdowns and cargo spikes caused by larger ships, the ports have recently made inroads towards addressing major chassis shortages and dislocations. Today, the three chassis-leasing firms that control roughly 85% of Southern California’s stock operate a “gray” chassis pool at the port complex, increasing operational efficiency for harbor truckers. In addition, some terminals have introduced a “free-flow” program under which containers for pre-approved importers and truckers are made more quickly and more readily accessible. Current estimates indicate that LA and Long Beach will clear their congestion within the next two to three months. In the meantime, research by trade data firm Zepol shows that volume at the two ports declined by approximately 20% during the months of January and February.

• Oakland: The port of Oakland is also reporting progress in addressing its backlog, along with a dramatic dip in container volume, which dropped by 36.7% during the month of February. In addition, Oakland continues to work towards resuming a normal vessel call schedule, as it was routinely skipped during the worst periods of delay in Southern California. “Cargo is moving,” said John Driscoll, the port’s Maritime Director, “and the backlog is shrinking. With capacity again available in our marine terminals, volumes should begin building soon.” Current congestion levels are expected to be overcome in no less than two months.

• Seattle & Tacoma: Though labor slowdowns at both ports were severe at times, current reports indicate that labor and crane productivity have quickly returned to a generally high levels. In a joint statement, Seattle and Tacoma port officials described current backlogs as “very small,” adding that their congestion “could take a few weeks to clear, although we’re encouraged by the progress we’ve already made.”

Walker will continue to monitor this situation and keep our customers informed of the latest developments. If you have questions or concerns related to specific shipments, please feel free to contact your Walker representative.