November 2014
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West Coast Port Gridlock

Some ocean carriers utilizing the US West Coast have implemented hefty Port Congestion Surcharges on all cargo transiting via West Coast ports.  This could apply not only to containers discharging on the West Coast, but all intermodal containers still pending arrival/delivery that have already departed the coast and moved inland via rail.  Carriers say the surcharge will cover costs arising from significant “disruption to normal course of operation due to labor unrest or action”.  The port situation has impacted West Coast terminal and vessel operations so severely that extraordinary costs are being incurred at every step of cargo movement.  
The proposed Port Congestion fee is around the below, with some variances among carriers:
  • $800 per 20’ container
  • $1000 per 40’ container
  • $1125 per 40’ high cube
  • $1266 per 45’ high cube
  • $25 w/m for LCL cargo
Several industry groups, including the National Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association (NCBFAA), of which Future Forwarding Company is a member, have already raised concern regarding the legality and feasibility of these surcharges with the FMC (Federal Maritime Commission).  The FMC regulates ocean carrier rates and surcharges and there are strict rules in place about when carriers can impose additional fees.  Industry has warned the carriers that imposing stiff fees at such a critical time when shippers are already losing sales due to port delays is not good business practice.  Importers are still trying to receive cargo in time for Black Friday sales, which is less than 2 weeks away.
Current Status of U.S. Ports:
Seattle:  There is some labor shortage.  Multiple ships at anchor pending labor.
Tacoma/Washington United Terminal:  As reported by PMA, vessel production numbers were less than normal.  Export and empty receiving is closed until further notice.  Union Pacific Railroad embargo for export in effect from November 10th.  Multiple ships are at anchor pending labor.
Portland:  Labor has walked off on numerous occasions last few days and terminal operations are becoming more congested.  Multiple ships are at anchor pending labor.
Oakland:  More than once last week, longshoremen on several shifts walked off the job, shutting down port ops for the rest of the shift.  
Los Angeles / Long Beach:  The ILWU continues to short-shift crews by withholding crane operators.  In addition to reported gridlock, drayage truckers resumed strike last Thursday.  However, drivers did agree to take down picket lines after meeting with Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti on Nov. 14.  Exports are experiencing sporadic gate closures.  Drivers are encouraged to check terminal receiving announcements daily.  Receiving is usually limited to only one day per vessel in most cases, as there is no room on the terminals to hold export containers.
Midwest and East Coast ports:  Truck power shortages continue.  Chassis are in short supply in New York and Midwest rail depots.  Rail volumes are at peak capacity.  New York ports are hustling.  The situation could deteriorate due to predicted cold weather temperatures.  Bundle up baby, it's cold outside!

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