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Rail News: Intermodal

Long Beach port addresses supply-chain issues, notes September volume gain

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners recently directed Port of Long Beach staff to develop plans for purchasing and providing thousands of truck chassis to help relieve congestion at the Los Angeles-area port during peak periods.

The commission determined the root cause of what's turned into a congestion crisis is a lack of chassis to support peak-level volumes, port officials said in a press release. There is a mismatch between supply and demand, with some privately operated terminals having an adequate supply of chassis while others are critically short — an imbalance that's causing severe congestion at some terminals, particularly during peak shipping periods, they said.

The commission has established a subcommittee to focus on port efficiency. Port staff have 30 days to come up with a proposal to obtain additional chassis. If necessary, the port would begin to establish an organization that would purchase, service and manage a pool of supplemental chassis.

Chassis owners Direct ChassisLink Inc. and TRAC Intermodal recently announced plans to add more than 3,000 chassis to their local fleets to better match supply and demand.

"We need to increase the utilization of the more than 100,000 chassis in the San Pedro Bay port complex,” said Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners Vice President Rich Dines. "Mega container ships with 10,000-plus total moves per call have added pressure on our chassis pools and far too many chassis sit idle on a daily basis."

The port also recently added an extra three days to the time that overseas import containers can remain on the docks without charge to grant some relief to cargo owners as the supply chain works to eliminate delivery delays.

As they attempt to solve supply-chain issues, commissioners also are trying to address a range of productivity issues, including rail, truck turn times and terminal processes.

"Increasing inbound rail movement of export cargo and developing 'short-haul rail' will help ensure an ample amount of chassis return to port for import delivery," said Dines. "It is time we take a systems approach to moving cargo and we will start by building a better chassis model."

Meanwhile, the port also reported September volume, which climbed 7.3 percent to 629,771 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) compared with September 2013, marking the port's busiest September since 2007.

Imports climbed 10.2 percent to 339,343 TEUs, exports tumbled 12.1 percent to 118,412 TEUs and empties jumped 19.1 percent to 172,016 TEUs.

"Cargo numbers climbed in September largely due to the importation of products for the upcoming holiday shopping season," port officials said. "The jump in imports made this September the third-busiest import month in Long Beach’s history."

The Port of Los Angeles in September logged 775,133 TEUs, up 9 percent year over year. The volume reflected the single busiest month at the port since August 2006, driven by peak-season shipping and larger vessels calling on L.A., port officials said in a press release.

Imports climbed 11 percent to 370,786 TEUs, exports inched up 0.2 percent to 150,380 TEUs, total loaded container volume rose 7.9 percent to 521,166 TEUs and empties jumped 12.2 percent to 212,947 TEUs.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/22/2014