While a new labor contract at the West Coast ports ended additional shipping delays, the consequence of the dispute at the port continues to upset the delicate balance of supply chains in the US. Businesses across the US depend on the expedient movement of their ocean freight shipments from the ports, to the trucks (or through intermodal) and to their final destination. But the port delays during the end of 2014, and larger vessels with more containers, resulted in terminals that are clogged with more containers than what they normally handle. The result includes ports that are gridlocked with long lines of vessels, long lines of trucks and endless stacks of containers.
The Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach hold about 40% of all of the containers exported to the US. It may take 6 months for the ports to normalize, even though the recent labor dispute has been settled. During that time, companies across the US will lose billions of dollars due to the delay in shipments. Even the most experienced freight forwarders are stunned by the delays.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the West Coast ports are trying new solutions to move the containers, which will ensure faster delivery of the containers. New software, Cargomatic, allows the truck drivers at the ports to cut down on the waiting time for trucks at the terminals. Some terminals are also trying appointments for truck drivers, though they are not efficient. There is also a free-flow plan, which gives the top container that is stacked to truckers via a crane. This will lower the sizes of the large stacks of containers. This is good for large companies with many shipments coming in together, but the real test will be to see if this works for smaller companies.