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Will these solutions ease delays at Ports?

Mar 28, 2015

Shipping delays at ports have many causes as discussed in our last post. We will now discuss what is being done to improve the situation.

solutions to port congestion.jpg


First let’s recap some of the causes of the port situation:

  • Contract negotiations/Labor dispute
  • Truck trailer (chassis)
  • Increased use of mammoth container
  • Aging port terminals
  • Cargo from multiple shipping lines on one ship
  • A shortage of truck drivers
  • A shortage of rail car capacity to haul cargo away from the docks

Now let’s look at some solutions that are being implemented: 


Some port terminals have started scheduling appointments for short-haul truck drivers eliminating long wait times while containers are extracted. Drivers arrive at an appointed time and, in theory at least, wait only for the container they need.

Free-Flow container operation launched in port of LA 

The Port of LA has partnered with terminal operators and a harbor drayage company to launch a container free-flow operation to free up space for more containers at the largest US port while delivering import loads to retailers and other large shippers quickly and efficiently.

Here is how free-flow works. The drayage firm serves a core group of Beneficial Cargo Owners (BCOs) that generate a critical mass of imports each week. Four marine terminals handling imports from those BCOs discharge their imports from the vessels and stack them in a block. Drayage-company truckers “peel off” the containers from the block and take them to the near-dock yard (a 16-acre site within a mile of the port). The loaded containers are then transported from the near-dock yard to distribution centers in the region. The drivers then pick up empty containers at the DCs and return them to the harbor. 

This closed-loop operation offers a number of benefits:

  • It reduces congestion at the marine terminals.
  • Harbor truckers experience quicker turn times.
  • Chassis remain in the drayage company’s loop.
  • BCOs save time in in retrieving imports
  • Maintenance on chassis is performed by Union mechanics keeping control of a process important during contract negotiations and preventing friction with the Union.

Consolidated Chassis Pool

Chassis are a vital link in moving millions of dollars of goods bound for stores across the nation daily.

That flow is disrupted when chassis are missing from the equation, especially at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, the nation’s busiest seaport complex handling 40 percent of U.S. imports.

In the past, shipping lines owned and operated their own chassis pools. Ships arrived, containers were offloaded and put on chassis that were attached to the back of a truck. But when the profit on those chassis fleets declined, the shipping lines began selling their chassis in 2013 and 2014 to leasing companies that got caught off guard with so much cargo coming in last year.

Now, three major chassis providers and a terminal operator have put into effect a pool system called the “gray chassis pool” that allows chassis to be shared. Between the three companies, they own the majority of chassis with more than 80 percent of the 100,000 or so circulated in Southern California. 

If the chassis pool is successful, truck drivers will be able to pick up and drop off a chassis at any container terminal without having to worry about which middleman leasing company controls it.

Hopefully these efforts will help reduce the shipment delays at ports. Planning your next shipment? For assistance with minimizing shipment delays contact your American Group representative or call 866-553-6608.