Thursday, September 25, 2014

Port CEOs: 24-Hour Operations Not Imminent

By Mark Edward Nero

The chief executives of some of the busiest ports on the West Coast say that moving to a 24-hour operational model is not seen as a potential solution to congestion problems and not likely to occur in the near future.

“We need productivity on every shift,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said. “If we have to go to that further extent (of 24-hour operations), I think we can discuss it, but first off, let’s get high productivity on every shift.”

Seroka’s comments, which came Sept. 22 during a panel discussion on West Coast port issues held during the annual Intermodal Association of North America Expo, were echoed by his Port of Long Beach counterpart, CEO Jon Slangerup.

“Going to a 24-hour operation is not a panacea,” Slangerup said. “We have to have a flexible operation as much as possible with labor and with terminal operations and with trucking operations and we have to figure out the informational emphasis that will allow that to happen and build all the proper alliances within the operations to make that happen.”

In addition to the heads of the nation’s two busiest ports, the heads of two smaller ports agreed that they key issue is not expanding operational hours so much as it is getting the most out of the current number of hours.

“It starts with productivity issues when we’re open and operating, and we have much to gain there,” Port of Tacoma CEO John Wolf said, before revealing that his port is exploring the possibility of adding a near-dock terminal that could be open after-hours to serve multiple terminals. It may be a better solution than having multiple terminals open off-hours, he said.

Port of Oakland Executive Director Chris Lytle said that the hours at his port might need to be expanded, but not to an around-the-clock schedule.

“I don’t think we’re ready for a 24-hour operation,” he said. “I think what’s more important is to get the efficiency in the organization and change those old broken models, otherwise, it’s just not going to be cost effective for anybody – the shipper, the motor carrier, the terminal operator, anyone.”