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West Coast Port Director Says Productivity Has Rebounded

Ports across the United States may be experiencing slower-than-expected traffic in the pre-holiday period, but the Port of Los Angeles executive director said the ports are being reengineered for greater efficiency and the results are already showing.

Speaking at the United States Fashion Industry Association’s (USFIA) 27th Annual Apparel Importers Trade and Transportation Conference in New York City last week, Port of Los Angeles executive director Gene Seroka said ports on the West Coast have lost 20 percent of their market share since last year’s labor lockout, but things are looking up.

“Port productivity has rebounded. We have come back in roaring fashion,” Seroka said, adding that productivity from ship, truck gate and rail activity are now back at all-time highs.

The goal now, though, is to get that productivity to even higher levels and Seroka said stakeholders are working in conjunction to improve movement at ports.

Between Los Angeles and Long Beach, there are 70 transportation services per week and the task at hand is figuring out how to collaborate for the betterment of the supply chain. Eleven different companies, for example, represent the 13 different terminals at the ports and creating an alliance among them could make for smoother supply chain operations.

More than $500 billion worth of goods moved through the two ports this year. The cargo that moves through the ports touch every Congressional district and one in 11 Los Angeles residents have a job directly or indirectly related to the port industry.

“The numbers are absolutely staggering when it comes to what the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach mean to this industry,” Seroka said.

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The ports are presently focused on three things, Seroka said: deeper collaboration, broader dialogue with supply chain stakeholders and new levels of engagement.

In terms of deeper collaboration, the ports are working to address concerns relative to congestions and working with supply chain stakeholders to enhance operational efficiencies and terminal velocity.

A supply chain optimization group comprised of up to 20 stakeholders in the industry has been assembled to facilitate broader dialogue and the group held a forum in April to get the conversation going.

To improve cargo flow into the marine terminals, Seroka said the ports need greater collaboration between shipping lines and a reduction in marine terminal container dwell times.

“Terminals should be more of a factory in and out—no cargo holding area,” he said.

The ports are also refining the chassis business model. In March, the ports launched an interoperable chassis pool, meaning that chassis (the wheeled trailers trucks use to haul cargo containers) can be used interchangeably by competing, separately operated pools instead of operating independently, which causes truckers to make extra stops to switch chassis for different customer loads, leading to both inefficiency and port congestion.

Chiming in on the chassis situation, Ron Widdows, who also spoke at the conference said, “It’s better than what it was but a long way from where it needs to be.”