West Coast port labor issues continue as some Los Angeles-bound rail shipments are halted

  • West Coast ports have seen several supply chain issues arise amid ongoing labor issues.
  • Union Pacific has now halted rail shipments from Denver bound for the ports of Los Angeles, as union workers who specialize in rail shipping are not making it to workrooms.
  • The Port of Los Angeles is the nation’s busiest port, processing $440 billion worth of cargo annually and is a major shipping point for the US agricultural industry.
  • Negotiations between the longshoremen’s union ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association continue as scheduled this week.

Aerial view of containers and cargo ships in the Port of Los Angeles on January 19, 2022 in San Pedro, California.

Qian Weizhong | Chinese Visual Group | fake images

Union Pacific is no longer accepting exports or empty containers at its Denver rail terminal bound for the Port of Los Angeles, a proactive move that reflects supply chain issues that have arisen due to ongoing West Coast port labor issues.

By stopping rail shipments, shippers can find other ports to ship goods instead of having to stay in containers for long periods of time before reaching their intended destinations. That’s critical for food and agriculture shipments, where products can spoil: The US agricultural industry predominantly uses the West Coast for its products.

The Port of Los Angeles is the busiest port in the country, processing $440 billion worth of cargo per year. That market share has dwindled with more trade moving to the East Coast over the past year, at least in part due to labor issues on the West Coast that had supply chain managers concerned about service reliability.

These latest problems have arisen because skilled union workers who work on rail shipments don’t make it to workrooms, according to CNBC sources.

Ocean carrier CMA today sent an email to customers CNBC obtained notifying them of Union Pacific’s decision. Union Pacific did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

Berkshire Hathaway’s subsidiary, BNSF, and Union Pacific are the railroads that serve the West Coast ports.

“This is the ripple effect we’re concerned about,” said Paul Brashier, vice president of drayage and intermodal for ITS Logistics. “US exports of protein and other products will begin to recede at inland ports. This will deteriorate rail productivity as a result of growing container congestion.”

Negotiations between the longshoremen’s union ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) continue as scheduled this week, CNBC has learned. The issue of salaries is still under discussion. Talks are under the cloud of slow port productivity. The ILWU and WFP have no comment, citing a media blackout.

West Coast ports opened Monday after multiple closures that began at the Port of Oakland last Friday when some union workers refused to show up for assignments. However, problems persisted at select terminals within ports from Los Angeles to Seattle, with labor delays and shift closures. .

Truckers tell CNBC they are still experiencing a “snail’s pace of productivity” at the terminals. Data from various CNBC supply chain heat map data providers also shows the delays.

ITS Logistics told CNBC that its truckers were turned away by terminal operator Fenix ​​Marine Services, owned by ocean carrier CMA-CGM, at the Port of Los Angeles during the first shift Monday. They were picking up containers from a variety of ocean carriers. Containers processed through the terminal include those owned by Maersk, OOCL, COSCO Shipping, Sealand (a Maersk company), and Evergreen.

Forty-five large commercial ships are currently en route to Los Angeles and are expected to arrive within the next 2 weeks, according to MarineTraffic tracking data, with 18 of those ships scheduled to arrive within the next 5 days. Adil Ashiq, Director for North America at MarineTraffic, He told CNBC that a resolution to decrease port productivity is necessary, and is critical to prevent an increase in supply chain issues that will affect both consumers and businesses.

“Reduced manpower means reduced ability to work on ships and send them back to sea,” Ashiq said.With the current situation, the port of Los Angeles will experience a pandemic crisis where ships will fill the anchorage, waiting to go to the terminal to load/unload cargo, once again causing the much hated congestion in one of the largest ports in the United States”.

Logistics companies with truckers on the ground tell CNBC that there are slowdowns at some ports.

“We are still seeing significant congestion in most of the terminals in Los Angeles today,” Brashier said. “Drivers are experiencing long wait times to enter terminals and to be served at terminals.

“When our west coast ports are unreliable, agricultural exporters become unreliable suppliers because our means of exporting from the heartland to the west coast have to suspend service,” said Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Transportation Coalition. Agricultural (AGTC).

In general, West Coast ports have lost trade with East Coast and Gulf Coast ports. CNBC has been tracking container volumes from the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Houston, New York and Savannah.

Container wait times at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland continue to increase. This is another physical slow trading indicator.

“The growing backlog of shipments at ports is expected to lead to longer rail dwell times and turbulence within the trucking industry as drivers navigate between cleaning out obsolete shipments and prioritizing high-priority ones.” said Jenna Slagle, Senior Marketing Data Analyst at Project44. . “In addition, as terminals reopen after work disruptions, there is the potential for equipment shortages, specifically chassis, and restrictions on yard capacity as they work to remove backlog.”

Showing an example of congestion affecting the supply chain, Ashiq highlighted the container ship MSC JEONGMIN, which was unloaded in Oakland on May 31. Based on the waiting time for the containers to leave the port, the products in these containers are still in the port.

Most of the items listed in the 320 containers brought in were all trade originating from Canada, which includes things like fresh apples and lentils, as well as frozen fish, poultry and meat, according to customs data analyzed by ImportGenius.

This vessel has been unloading products in the ports of Los Angeles, Seattle and Oakland. Products have included Tesla car tires, IKEA furniture, and Trader Joe’s Petite peas from Portugal. She has also included hundreds of containers full of wine from Europe, as well as porcelain tile and granite slabs.

“The Port of Oakland situation is not looking good,” Ashiq said. “The port is a first-come, first-served port, meaning ships line up for priority depending on their arrival time. What we’re looking at is an anchorage that hasn’t been this busy since at least March this year, with almost twice as many ships waiting at anchorage compared to that time.”

According to MarineTraffic data at press time, six vessels are waiting offshore and seven vessels are currently anchored. Reports of port fluidity among truckers is good news for logistics companies called 3PLs that handle shipments for businesses.

“In Oakland, conditions have improved a lot since last week’s shutdowns, which is good as we have a backlog of import containers to dump and export containers to enter our customers,” Brashire said.

Robert Bernardo, director of communications for the Port of Oakland, told CNBC that its marine terminals are back in full operation and that the port is “making great progress with the delay of the weekend closure.”