On Wednesday, the White House announced that the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach will both be expanding operations to 24 hours-7 days a week. Historically, neither port has operated at that level, despite other ports around the world doing so. With the addition of new off-peak night time shifts and weekend hours, it is anticipated that the number of available hours that cargo can move out of docks and onto highways should double; at the same time, congestion during peak day windows should ease.
In conjunction with the ports’ actions, large retailers and logistic companies have committed to utilizing the expanded hours to move more cargo off the docks and allowing for quicker ship docking and container availability. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) also committed that its members are willing to work those extra shifts, adding the needed workforce capacity to put towards clearing existing backlogs.
It remains to be seen how these operational changes will impact the flow of agricultural exports out of those ports, which are key gateways into crucial Asian markets.
An Ongoing Crisis
For nearly a year, U.S. agricultural exporters have faced extreme challenges getting their products onto ships and out to foreign buyers, including record-breaking congestion and delays at ports, shipping lines’ persistent failure to provide accurate notice of arrival/departure and cargo loading times, excessive financial penalties and other fees, and skyrocketing freight rate costs. Unfortunately, this situation remains fluid with no clear end in sight; based on current projections, we may not see a return to normal until early 2022, all but guaranteeing tough months ahead for those commodities whose peak shipping seasons fall between September and March.
Western Growers Action
Foreign markets are critical to our members, especially those that produce tree nuts and citrus. Earlier this year, Western Growers supported an industry letter that urged the U.S. Department of Transportation to consider its existing powers and determine how it can assist with the transportation needs of U.S. ag exporters in overcoming the current challenges in shipping goods and products. With its allies and the Agricultural Transportation Coalition, WG also pressed the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to hold a hearing examining this ongoing crisis. It was ultimately held on June 15, marking the first time in many years the committee had looked closely at this issue, and with several Members of Congress calling for stronger action on behalf of U.S. ag exporters. A recording of the hearing can be viewed here.
We continue to press for action from the Administration, as well as state and local officials, to engage the marine transport supply chain – particularly the shipping lines and terminals – to find solutions and relief.
**If your business is having problems with exporting – including high detention/demurrage or other questionable fees, excessive delays or cancellations, and carrier unresponsiveness – please contact Tracey Chow (email@example.com, 202-704-7312)