Union problems ?.............or something else ?
Port of Oakland delays: 'Absolute madness’ threatens business
By Andrew S. Ross
Updated 9:01 am, Saturday, December 20, 2014
Gabriel Suarez gets plenty of downtime at work. Too much, in fact.
He had already spent three hours waiting in his truck outside the Port of Oakland when I caught up with him this week.
“Usually it takes five or six hours. Yesterday, it took 16 hours. One load,” said Suarez, 52, who drives to the port daily for Rocha Transportation in Modesto.
It’s a story told by truck drivers, truck owners, shipping companies and port officials up and down the West Coast. It raises costs and pits truckers against longshoremen and, sometimes, truckers against truckers. It has U.S. retailers and exporters on edge and, if not addressed, could threaten West Coast container ports including Oakland, the nation’s fifth largest, with a major loss of business.
“The problems we’re seeing now are greater than any we have seen in the past 20 years,” said Cory Peters, vice president of drayage operations at Manteca’s Gardner Trucking, one of the dozens of trucking companies transporting containers in and out of the port daily.
At root is a system in which steamship lines, terminal operators, subcontractors, import and export companies, trucking companies, drivers and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union operate in what might politely be called silos, often with conflicting interests. Drawn-out contract negotiations between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, representing the shippers at 29 West Coast ports, interspersed by walkouts and slowdowns, haven’t helped matters.
“It’s absolute madness,” said Peters. “The current system as set up is not sustainable.”
Worst hit are the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two biggest container ports in the United States. Some of their cargo has been diverted to Oakland, which has contributed to a growth in traffic to the port. Ironically, that uptick in business is at least partly responsible for the delays.
“We’ve gotten more stacked up over the past couple of weeks, with schedules all over the place,” said Beth Frisher, manager of business development and international marketing at the Port of Oakland. The “snowball effect” from Southern California, she said, has “had collateral impacts up the coast.”..................