California Governor Gavin Newsom and Biden Administration-appointed Port Envoy John D. Porcari visited the Port of Long Beach on Wednesday to discuss state and federal measures to alleviate the congestion at the San Pedro Bay Port Complex.
Newsom and Porcari, along with state and local officials, gathered Wednesday at Total Terminals International’s container terminal at Pier T to “highlight state and federal measures being implemented to alleviate the current supply chain backlog, plan for future needs and thank frontline workers for moving record cargo volumes,” the Port of Long Beach said in a news release.
During the event, Gov. Newsom outlined recent steps by the state to help unclog the supply chain, including higher weight limits on trucked cargo and expanding hours for commercial truck driver license examinations. He said the recently signed federal infrastructure bill will bring needed improvements throughout the state’s transportation system.
Also discussed were plans for ocean carriers to bring in “sweeper” ships to load out empty containers in order to free up more dock space, as well as promises for 24/7 operations, a pledge that has been scrutinized as going underutilized or even unavailable.
The visit comes as The White House released new data on Wednesday indicating the number of containers dwelling for 9 or more days at terminals the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach decreased by about a third as of Nov. 15, compared to Nov. 1, a decline that has been attributed to the threat of extended dwelling fines for ocean carriers by both ports. The fines, which were expected to come into effect on Nov. 15, have now been delayed until Nov. 22.
Despite a 32% decline in “long dwelling” containers, however, as of Nov. 15 there were still 87,000 import containers sitting on docks for 9 days or more, all of which would have been subject to the daily fine starting at $100 the first day and increasing in $100 increments for each day a long dwelling container (9+ days for local truck-bound and 6+ for rail-bound) is not removed.
The Port of Los Angeles this week also drew attention to the number of empty export containers, which need to be repositioned back to Asia, has risen to some 65,000 in recent weeks. Meanwhile, the number of containerships awaiting outside the ports, both at physical anchor and in “loitering” areas, hit an all-time record of 86 on Tuesday, although yesterday’s numbers show the number declined to 80. Overall, Los Angeles reported Thursday there are 68,397 total import containers dwelling in port. The number at Long Beach was 49,553 as of Wednesday.
With this context, here’s what some of the officials had to say:
“Major changes in consumer habits driven by a global pandemic have led to all-time record high volumes of containers moving through Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. Thanks to the collective work of California and our partners, we have seen a 32% drop in containers sitting on the docks,” said Governor Newsom. “California has taken swift action across the board to address congestion and increase our capacity to move goods quickly. I am grateful for the cooperation of both the public and private sectors – from the federal government, to the ports, the workforce, the retailers, and the shipping lines – for the additional commitments they’ve made to tackle the backlog.”
“Many of the biggest challenges our ports are facing today have been years in the making,” said Port Envoy Porcari. “I am grateful for California’s partnership and dedicated focus to produce outcomes that will reduce congestion, improve operations and set us on a sustainable path for the future.”
“We are moving record volumes of cargo using infrastructure built by our parents and in many cases our grandparents,” Porcari said. “The $17 billion allocated for ports and waterways in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, in addition to the President’s Port Action Plan, will go a long way towards ensuring goods flow through ports like Long Beach and Los Angeles efficiently.”
“This is an all-hands moment for the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles,” said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. “With the support of the Biden and Newsom administrations, we are working as one to address the shipping backlog by assisting our supply chain partners wherever we can.”
“The fact that we had the U.S. port envoy and the governor here to discuss the solutions to the supply chain crisis is significant,” said Mario Cordero, Port of Long Beach Executive Director. “I’m excited about the conversation and the progress we are making. This is the largest port complex in the nation and we have the full attention of our state and federal partners.”
“The men and women of the ILWU have been working hard every day during the pandemic to keep America’s shelves stocked, and we appreciate the efforts of the federal and state governments to move cargo off of the docks and throughout the supply chain,” said Willie Adams, ILWU International President. “These efforts are critical to allowing dockworkers the room we need to continue moving cargo off of ships.”