The two busiest ports in the country said they are working out the details after President Biden that the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach would begin operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help relieve supply chain bottlenecks.
Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka, Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, and stakeholder companies met with Biden on Wednesday to discuss what the president said has “the potential to be a gamechanger” to speed up the movement of goods.
“If federal support is needed, I will direct all appropriate action. And if the private sector doesn’t step up, we’re going to call them out and ask them to act,” Biden said. “Because our goal is not only to get through this immediate bottleneck, but to address the longstanding weaknesses in our transportation supply chain that this pandemic has exposed.”
A senior administration official said that the U.S. has immunized 54,000 international shipping workers “who have been working tirelessly, as we know, for months, sometimes years, on the ships, and this has really helped the global shipping industry continue to operate during these challenging times” when COVID-19 has brought some ports to a standstill as consumer demand shot up. Another official noted to reporters that the administration is trying to help alleviate the truck driver shortage “by supporting state DMVs as they return to or even exceed what were their pre-pandemic commercial driver’s license issuance rates.”
“Our waterfront workforce is moving cargo as quickly as possible as we continue to collaborate with stakeholders from throughout the goods movement industry to develop solutions for our capacity challenges,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Steven Neal. “This cargo surge is anticipated to last well into 2022, so we need to start thinking of new ways to meet the expected growth in goods movement and rising consumer demand.”
The Port of Long Beach experienced its second-busiest September on record; the busiest was 2020. Throughout last month, 748,472 cargo container units moved at the port, which has moved 7,094,849 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) during the first nine months of this year. While the port hit a record 8.1 million TEUs in 2020, that is expected to pass 9 million by the end of this year.
“We are having capacity issues due to the unprecedented number of containers waiting to move off the terminals, while warehouses have little to no room to accommodate this ongoing spike in cargo moving through our port,” Cordero said. “This is not just about a record number of ships waiting off the coast. We are working with state, federal, local and industry partners to address issues with the entire supply chain that have finally caught up with us.”
Nearly a month ago, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the two largest ports in the nation, jointly announced expanded night and weekend hours for trucks picking up or dropping off containers to help accommodate the surge. The strategy also called for incentives to encourage truckers to take advantage of non-peak gate hours.
“Operational details are being discussed and worked out with the supply chain stakeholders,” Seroka said after Biden’s announcement on round-the-clock port operations. “The significance of today’s announcement is the commitment from industry leaders responsible for moving goods on behalf of American consumers and businesses to open up the capacity needed to deliver. It’s a call to action for others to follow.”
“We have heard directly from the President, the Vice President, Secretary Buttigieg, National Economic Council Director Deese, and Port Envoy Porcari. We have a lot of work ahead,” Seroka added. “The Port of L.A. is called America’s Port because cargo we handle reaches every corner of the country. In the days ahead, we are committed to continuing to be the convener to ensure the supply chain delivers for the American people.”