The Port of Long Beach started a pilot program to increase cargo pickup in the late night/early morning hours. - Photo: Port of Long Beach

The Port of Long Beach started a pilot program to increase cargo pickup in the late night/early morning hours.

Photo: Port of Long Beach

The southern California ports are struggling with a historic surge in cargo as containers continue to stack up. In late September, there were an estimated 500,000 containers sitting on cargo ships off the coast, according to published reports, with a record 66 ships as of Sept. 29. Ships are waiting an average of six days to unload, compared to two days in more normal times, according to local station KTLA.

In response, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles announced new measures to improve freight movement and reduce delays through the ports.

Both ports are expanding the hours during which trucks can pick up and return containers.

The Port of Long Beach will take the first step towards a 24/7 supply chain by maximizing nighttime operations. A pilot program at its largest terminal is designed to increase cargo pickup in the late night/early morning hours. From 11 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. at its TTI Terminal, truckers with appointments during this period will get access whenever they arrive during that time.

TTI also is opening gates from 3-7 a.m. Monday to Thursday for two-way, prearranged “dual transaction” truck appointments to both drop off and pick up container in the same trip.

The Port of Los Angeles will expand weekend operating gate hours during a pilot project dubbed Accelerate Cargo LA.

In addition, both ports have called on marine terminal operators to incentivize the use of all available gate hours, especially night gates, to reduce congestion and maximize cargo throughput capacity.

The ports said they will work closely with the trucking community to ensure that truck operators understand how to take advantage of incentivized gate hours as well as the expanded opportunities to move cargo during non-peak times.

Gene Seroka, the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, told a local CBS affiliate that the federal government needs to step up and invest in the ports. “This is what 10 years of under-investment looks like,” he said.

And it’s not just the SoCal ports.

Georgia’s Port of Savannah reported backlogs of more than 20 ships last month. Loaded container imports at the port are up more than 30% so far this year. The Georgia Ports Authority Board has approved more than $34 million to help expedite an additional 1.6 million twenty-foot equivalent container units in capacity that will begin coming online in December at the Port of Savannah.

At the Port of Jacksonville in Florida, a new $72 million project ultimately will allow the SSA Jacksonville Container Terminal at Blount Island to accommodate more containers to accommodate up to 500,000 TEUs annually, 150% higher than the current throughput. By the end of this project in 2024, the port aims to increase total TEU throughput by more than 40% to nearly 2 million TEUs annually.

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