Ports of LA, Long Beach to fine firms over container backlog

From the top of the Port of Long Beach Joint Command and Control Center the view is stunning. The city’s new bridge, the Long Beach skyline but there are millions of containers just sitting there. Mario Cordero is the Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach. 

To him, "One of the actions that’s absolutely a priority here is to clear the capacity issues of our marine terminal operators."

In other words, he believes it’s important to get the cargo containers moving faster through the system.

To do that, Cordero says the international carriers that bring them here need to step up. 

He says, "Essentially we’ve given notice that gone are the days that these containers are just going to sit there for nine days or more."

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When a ship comes into a port, there could be 10,000 or 15,000 containers on it. Those are offloaded by big ship-to-shore cranes. Then automated movers the containers through the yard. And, they’re picked up by land cranes.

While the mechanical choreography of the "yard cranes" may look like a ballet it all comes to a screeching halt after they’re parked. On November 1, the Ports of Long Beach and LA are going to start fining shippers $100 a day and each day that will increase in $100 increments. 

Says Cordero, "It’s a bold step that’s required in this crisis." 

And, while a $100 may not sound like much since shippers have thousands of containers each, the Port’s Executive Director says, when you multiply that times 5,000 (or) times 10,000 to address capacity issues it adds up to a lot of money.

While all this sounds like a supply chain nightmare for the shippers and consumers not getting what they want or need, Cordero says there is an upside pointing out, "I think the good news is that one of the reasons we’re in the situation we’re in right now is the healthy economy right now." 

But, to get the Port into a much healthier shape it’ll take moving cargo and Cordero hopes the fines will help.

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