By Mike Wackett
The G6 alliance will omit eastbound calls at the port of Los Angeles on the next four sailings of one of its Asia-US west coast loops, due to the “ongoing congestion”. According to a customer advisory from G6 member APL, it will also skip other calls at the carrier’s Global Gateway South (GCS) terminal to enable it to “remain fluid”.
Due to the greater complexity of its terminal operations, the G6 grouping has probably been the worst affected of the alliances by the chronic congestion that has blighted the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach over the past few months. Local maritime information agency Marine Exchange has at times reported up to five G6 member ships at anchor, awaiting berths in the Los Angeles-Long Beach complex. Moreover, APL has itself gone on record blaming port congestion at Los Angeles as a major reason for its third-quarter losses.
Meanwhile, contract negotiations resumed between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and employers’ representative Pacific Maritime Association after the Thanksgiving break, but there appeared to be few signs of goodwill or optimism after nine months of painful talks that have made little progress on agreeing a new labour contract.
The previous six-year deal expired on 1 July, and although ILWU members are said to be working through the negotiations, there has been plenty of mud-slinging from both sides, leading to sporadic slowdowns and disruptions – unwelcome additional problems for the busy LA/LB terminals to overcome.
Shippers fear that the talks over a new labour contract for the west coast’s 29 ports will eventually break down, sparking industrial action by ILWU members that will considerably exacerbate the congestion.
A survey earlier in the year by the National Retail Federation and the National Association of Manufacturers concluded that a west coast port shutdown could cost the US economy an estimated $2bn a day.
However, local forwarders believe that with sufficient will, congestion in the area could be solved. UTi Worldwide executive vice-president of operations Ed Feitziner recently told The Loadstar: “We do believe that if terminals are provided with sufficient labour, with no slow-downs, there is a short window through to January to allow terminals to clean up a bit.
“However, the fact is that 12,000 TEU-plus vessels in most of the U.S. west coast is the norm now, and the terminals have made few adjustments to accommodate the aggregate increase in throughput.” In addition, the congestion is considerably worsened by the complexity of haulage operations serving the ports, according to other sources.
“You have the owner-operators who are protesting because they haven’t seen a rise in rates since 2008; you have the Teamsters protesting against the owner-operators because they feel they should be unionized, and if the Teamsters form a picket line the ILWU won’t cross it. Anyone who has a gripe realizes that this is the time to make their point.”
Reprinted courtesy of The Loadstar (www.loadstar.com)