Truckers’ Strike Not Impacting Records Volumes at Port of Los Angeles

record container volumes
(Port of Los Angeles)

Published Apr 14, 2021 7:19 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Los Angeles continues to see record container volumes as the surge in import traffic through the port continues unabated. Officials reported that they are continuing to make progress chipping away at the backlogs that developed and that operations at the port are continuing smoothly despite a strike by the teamsters union against one of the trucking companies that has now spread to supporting actions by the longshoremen.

The strike began on Monday when the truck drivers launched an action against one of the companies, Universal Logistics Holdings, alleging that the company had fired drivers and committed other labor law violations in response to the efforts by the drivers to form a union. The striking truck drivers have been picketing the company’s truck yard since Monday demanding the rehiring of the fired drivers.

The impact on the port operations has been limited but today the members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced that in sympathy with the strikers they would no longer be servicing trucks owned by Universal Logistics Holdings at the port’s terminals. A port spokesperson told NBC News in Los Angeles that there had been some traffic disruptions at one of the port’s seven terminals but that the impact against overall port operations and the movement of cargo was minor.

Any disruptions to the port’s operations could come as a significant setback as the Port of Los Angeles continues to make progress in reducing the backlog that peaked in late January and early February. Giving his monthly update, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka, highlight that the number of vessels waiting in the anchorage for dock space is down to an average of 20 total for the San Pedro Bay, with nine waiting today to enter the Port of Los Angeles. Wait times remain high at nearly eight days on average but Seroka forecast that the backlog would be cleared by late May or early June.

“We have never seen volumes like this in the first half of the calendar year,” Seroka said reporting that March was the eighth consecutive month of volume increases and the third busiest month ever in the port. Los Angeles, like many ports, continues to break records driven by a surge in imports responding to strong consumer spending.

The Port of Los Angeles is averaging 900,000 TEU per month creating a sustained surge the Seroka said he has never seen in his career in the shipping industry. The port is averaging 16 vessels a day on dock and for March handed a total of 95 vessels, which included four extra loaders, ships the lines added to their schedules due to strong demand.

The year-over-year comparisons in volumes are dramatic because of the shutdowns as the pandemic began a year ago. Seroka however highlighted that the port’s volume was up 17 percent over 2019 during the first quarter, nearing 2.6 million TEU in the quarter with 957,599 TEU in March.

The port experts that the strong volumes will continue into the summer of 2021 and by the time they have caught up they expect to begin to see the traditional surge in imports with back to school and then holiday season merchandise. As more indications of the progress in clearing the backlog, Seroka pointed to reductions in dwell times at most points in the supply chain except for rail dwell time. He thanks the longshoremen and truckers who have been working so hard and points to labor shift times which are running 13 percent above the four-year average.

The surge that began in the fall of 2020, is driving the port to what Seroka sees as a remarkable achievement. The Port of Los Angeles is on track to surpass 10 million TEU for its fiscal year that ends in June. It would become the first port in the Western Hemisphere to achieve that annual level.