The number of cargo ships awaiting to dock at West Coast ports has increased recently. The backlog has caused supply chain issues and contributed to the higher prices of goods. Truckers in charge of delivering these goods have voiced their frustration, blaming authorities at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
According to truck drivers, a dearth of available hands behind the wheel is not to blame for the situation. They instead call for both the Long Beach and L.A. ports to speed up wait times and increase the number of staff members to help with offloading. Several drivers reached out to CBS Los Angeles to share their frustration.
Driver Walter Martinez says: “I’ve got friends right now that are in line from 9 a.m. and they can’t pull the load yet.”
He laments how port workers seemingly fail to understand that time is of the essence. “The people inside, they get paid by the hour – but not the drivers,” Martinez says.
Some point to outdated infrastructure and importers with nowhere to store the containers for the backlogs. Other drivers meanwhile point to dock help not keeping up with demand – with Oscar Ovalle among them.
“Last night, I was there from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. They kicked me out because they leave at 3 a.m.,” says Ovalle. He points out the dock help’s refusal to alleviate the situation. Ovalle says: “There’s one crane for 60 trucks and it’s ridiculous! They have two other cranes sitting.”
Port authorities test new programs to help with backlog
Given the situation in the L.A. and Long Beach ports, authorities have implemented programs to help address the problem. Port of L.A. Executive Director Gene Seroka says he has begun a new program called “Accelerate Cargo LA” alongside the Department of Transportation to alleviate congestion. He has also called on the Federal Reserve to assist on the matter.
Seroka says: “Over the last 10 years, the federal government and Congress have out-invested West Coast ports at a rate of 11 to one. That’s got to change, and with an infrastructure bill pending vote in Congress, we need all eyes on L.A. This is what 10 years of under-investment looks like, and we need to move forward.”
Meanwhile, the Port of Long Beach (POLB) has begun a 24/7 pilot program expanding cargo pickup hours. “Truckers will find they are never too early or too late for their appointments from 11 p.m. to 1:30 am at the [Long Beach] terminal. For truckers with appointments during this period, the terminal will allow access whenever they arrive,” the POLB says in a statement.
POLB Executive Director Mario Cordero adds: “We are in the midst of [a] historic surge in cargo, and our terminal operators and other supply chain partners are giving it their all to keep it all moving. We welcome this pilot project as a first step toward extending gates to 24/7 operations, and we encourage our cargo owners and trucking partners to give this innovative program a try.” (Related: West Coast ports logjammed with about 60 container ships still waiting to dock; supply lines continue to suffer disruptions.)
Increased demand and limited supply come amid the holidays
Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) CEO Soren Toft acknowledges a 33 percent increase in imports from Asia into the U.S. The executive at the world’s second largest container line says that MSC “has been moving 12 months’ worth of goods within an eight-month time frame.” Toft adds: “Supply chains are not built for such massive changes.”
The massive increase in imports adds to the problems faced by the West Coast ports.
Seroka tells KTLA 5 that the Port of L.A. is the busiest it has been in its more than a century of history. Because of the backlog, ships are now waiting an average of six days compared to only two in regular periods. “We’re still moving more cargo than ever, but it’s not enough due to the buying power of the American consumer,” Seroka says.
Toy Association Executive Vice President Ed Desmond acknowledges the ongoing backlog at the ports.
“The ensuing cargo backlog has caused supply worries ahead of the holiday season.” Given the increased demand and unstable supply, he advises Americans to start shopping for presents ahead of time.” says Desmond. (Related: Worsening shipping crisis will affect retail supply lines and shopping for holidays.)
“If you see toys you think the kids are going to want for Christmas, pick them up now and tuck them away to make sure you have them. We just don’t know what’s going to happen when we get down the road closer to Christmas.”