Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Oakland Port Adding 400 Dockworkers

By Mark Edward Nero

Faced with a buildup of ships and cargo caused in part by a shortage of labor, the Port of Oakland has taken steps to bring in about 400 additional dockworkers, the port revealed July 10.

Additional hires are expected to be phased into the workforce through September, the port said, to handle the cargo buildup and clear out a backlog of vessels anchored in San Francisco Bay.

“We’re not operating with the speed and efficiency our customers deserve right now,” Maritime Director John Driscoll said. “Additional longshore labor is an important first step in getting back on track.”

In addition to adding new workers, waterfront employers and the longshore union have agreed to train and promote 100 current workers. That would expand the workforce available to fill positions requiring greater skill and experience.

The port doesn’t directly hire longshore labor; that task is managed by the marine terminal operators that lease their facilities from the port.

The extra help is necessary for multiple reasons, according to the port, including that its containerized cargo volume is trending upward; the number of vessels arriving in Oakland has also grown, with the port often berthing 10 ships a day.

Also playing a factor, according to the port, is that some ships are anchored in the Bay two days waiting for short-staffed terminals to clear vessels from berths; and that more auto carrier vessels and cruise ships are calling at Bay Area ports putting further strain on the longshore labor pool.

The labor shortage has lengthened the time ships spend loading and unloading by as much as a day. It has also added time to the delivery of cargo at final destination. The port anticipates that cargo and vessel delays should ease by the end of July and that it is in discussions with waterfront labor and management on further measures to accelerate cargo operations.