AAFA Decries West Coast Port Congestion, Lack of Contract Resolution

Excerpt from International Trade Today |  By:  Brian Dabbs  |  November 5, 2014


Apparel importers have struggled to combat massive congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach over the past several months, and the situation is not showing signs of imminent improvement, said the American Apparel and Footwear Association in recent days. In joint letters on Oct. 30 to the heads of both ports (here), as well as Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero (here), AAFA President Juanita Duggan urged quick action to address chassis unavailability at the ports.

The FMC should accept a port proposal for a “discussion agreement” to tackle congestion, added Duggan. The Port of Long Beach in October added work days to the schedule for port employees to try to relieve congestion. However, insufficient resources prevented employees from moving the cargo through the port in the allotted “free time,” said Duggan, while still pushing for more “free time.” Trade groups asked the FMC over the summer to take a bigger role in resolving port disruptions.

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Among other problems, the association’s “members have experienced having their containers quickly dropped by carriers in ‘unassigned’ locations amidst congestion chaos and have not been able to find their containers for pickup quickly,” Duggan said. “In some cases, this has resulted in unavoidable demurrage penalties of over $100,000 per week.” Duggan outlined a number of scenarios that should trigger the
availability of “free time.” The Port of Long Beach recently extended the amount of demurrage free time due to congestion there.

The AAFA is also increasingly alarmed at the lack of resolution in the ongoing labor contract negotiations on the West Coast, said Duggan. “While we understand the need for a media blackout on the contract negotiations, there has not been a progress update from the parties since August 2014,” said Duggan. “The longer we go without an update on the negotiations, the greater our concern.” Several lawmakers also
recently pressured labor and port authorities to reach a quick accord.