As we prepare for Labor Day weekend, I’d like to share what we are seeing at the port of Oakland in recent weeks.
The vessel delay issue that started in the middle of June seems to have receded. The bottleneck resulted from not having enough longshoremen to unload containers off vessels. The port of Oakland has been working on adding longshoremen to “full time” status and training them to unload containers. Here is a chart provided by the port of Oakland showing the number of vessels sitting out in anchor or in a holding station waiting to be unloaded.
The number of vessels waiting to be unloaded has been reduced to almost zero in the past week. I’m guessing that some of the improvement is a result of labor availability. However at the same time we have to also take into account the vessels that have skipped Oakland in recent months in order to avoid Oakland’s congestion problems.
Congestion WITHIN the terminals unfortunately remains a big time problem. In recent weeks, the biggest offender seems to be Ports America, where we have noticed containers being placed in closed / unavailable locations for over two weeks before becoming available. It seems to be hit or miss, as some importers have had their containers made available within a few days while others have had to wait weeks. Unpredictability is the new reality that importers are facing.
We’ve been waiting to hear of possible solutions to help relieve congestion. The most recent concept that seems to be moving forward is Oakpass. The Oakland Marine Terminal Operators submitted a request to the FMC on July 24, 2015 to begin implementing a program similar to the PierPass program in Los Angeles/Long Beach. Oakpass is essentially PierPass “light.” Oakpass would allow for opening of Saturday operations at marine terminals. Currently, longshoremen work on Saturdays only for dockside operations (unloading and loading containers). With Oakpass, trucks would be able to go in on Saturdays to pick up containers. The request to the FMC did not disclose the cost for implementing Oakpass. However the news we are hearing indicates that the Saturday gate opening would be funded by charging all containers picked up during standard Monday-Friday terminal hours a fee of $17/20′ or $34/40′ container. We are still waiting to hear back from the FMC whether the Oakpass program is given the green light.
As we begin to ramp up the peak shipping season, here are some things to continue to be aware of:
1.) Labor Day Weekend – All terminals will be closed on Monday, September 7th for Labor Day. Long weekends without a doubt wreak havoc on the terminals. Expect backlogs at the port terminals next week.
2.) Keep in mind that China has a week long holiday starting the first week of October. If you have urgent containers ready to ship out in coming weeks, please keep in mind that many factories will be pushing shipments to be completed before the holiday. We expect to see possible congestion in the weeks leading up to the holiday.
3.) Truck power at the port of Oakland continues to be in short supply.
I’d like to wish everyone a great Labor Day Weekend!
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