WHILE truck turn times in October were the worst on record in Los Angeles and Long Beach, most terminals staggered lunch breaks and dinner hours so gates remained open for the entire shifts.
But the increasing container dwell times are worst of all, said Val Noronha, president of Digital Geographic Research, a company that tracks turn times in the harbour using GPS technology.
The lengthening dwell time in October might have been attributed to exceptionally strong volumes, as they were in September, as it was assumed the ports had reached their saturation capacity, said Newark's Journal of Commerce.
But the two San Pedro Bay ports reported combined growth of only three per cent in October, leading Mr Noronha to say: "Something else was going very wrong."
He identified dwell time as the key problem, containers sitting on the dock longer, congesting the terminals, and requiring double-handling as they awaited pickup in a case of wasted time wasting more time.
According to a study by INTTRA, a shipping industry portal that provides container visibility in the supply chain, dwell time in Los Angeles-Long Beach was up more than 40 per cent year on year in October.
"As turn time worsens, containers don't get picked up on time, they remain on the dock, increasing stack occupancy, which slows down time further," he said.
This was also reflected in manhours worked. The employers of the Pacific Maritime Association said longshoremen in October were paid for 489,596 hours a week, a 34 per cent year-on-year increase.
Put another way, it took them 34 per cent more time to move three per cent more cargo, said the report.
Containers arrive off-schedule at retailers' distribution centres and deadhead trips increase. Chassis shortages led to hoarding or reserving equipment by cargo interests and terminals.
So while chassis were there to be used, they could not be used at the time by those who needed them, but had to wait on those who would need them later.