Tuesday, September 8, 2015

SF Bay Ship Backlog Dwindling

By Mark Edward Nero

A backlog of container ships crowding the San Francisco Bay is diminishing, according to the Port of Oakland. The port reported no vessels at anchor waiting for berths at its five marine terminals as of Sept. 1, the sixth straight day of no waiting after a summer-long buildup of ships.

“The vessels waiting to berth have been declining the past three weeks,” Oakland Maritime Director John Driscoll said. “Ships are arriving in Oakland and going straight to berth – just what our customers need and how we expect the port to operate every day.”

As many as 13 ships filled the San Francisco Bay anchorage in July, delayed by a labor shortage that slowed vessel loading and unloading in port. Since then, the number has steadily dwindled.

An influx of additional longshore labor over the past six weeks has helped eliminate the backlog, according to the port. About 150 more dockworkers are joining the work force to accelerate vessel operations in Oakland and are being augmented by more than 300 casual or part-time workers.
Another 30 marine clerk positions are being created as well, according to the port.

Throughout late August and early September, all requests for labor have been filled at Port of Oakland marine terminals. For much of the summer, only 50-to-70 percent of the labor orders had been filled.

The port has cautioned, however, that vessel backlogs could reoccur until all longshore labor reinforcements are in place, which could take another four to six weeks. Growth in the labor force is expected to be complete in time for the autumn peak-shipping season.

The port has recently proposed congestion remedies including Saturday gates and a common pool of container chassis to help harbor truckers move containers more quickly.