Roundup: Busy ports in Southern California deny Biden's appeal for 24/7 operations

Source: Xinhua| 2021-10-16 05:18:44|Editor: huaxia

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- The Port of Los Angeles (POLA) and the Port of Long Beach (POLB), the most busiest ports in the United States, denied they had transitioned to 24/7 operations despite U.S. President Joe Biden's appeal earlier this week.

The POLA's executive director Gene Seroka said during a media briefing Thursday which was posted online that a timeline for when that schedule change would actually take effect remains unclear.

"It's not a single lever we can pull today to open up all the gates, but what we're doing is trying to squeeze every minute, every hour of efficiency out of this port complex that we can, sharing information, building on those strong decades-long relationships, and with the strength of the federal government behind this," Seroka said. "The work here will be fast. It has to be ... but it's bringing everyone together. There's no timeline when suddenly we will wake up and everything will be 24/7."

The POLB's spokesman Lee Peterson was quoted by the Long Beach Post news Friday as saying that no terminal operates 24/7 so far.

While the ports are indeed working to speed up the flow of goods, the reality is that it will take time for the busiest port complexes in the country to significantly ramp up cargo movement, he said. "It's a bit of a process, it's not an overnight thing."

White House Port Envoy John Porcari noted after the authorities held meetings Wednesday to resolve existing supply chain barriers that 24/7 operations at the POLA would kick off on Friday. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also said that the POLB began 24/7 operations "weeks ago."

During a press conference from the East Room of the White House on Wednesday, Biden repeated these claims, touting that the twin ports in Southern California had transitioned to 24/7 operations as a means to alleviate the severe supply bottleneck there.

"After weeks of negotiations and working with my team and with the major union retailers and freight movers, the Port of Los Angeles announced today that it's going to begin operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Biden said during his speech.

However, according to the Long Beach Post, on Sept. 21, four days after the San Pedro Bay ports announced a joint move toward 24/7 operations, POLB unveiled a pilot program in which Monday through Thursday, the international container terminal on Pier T would operate around the clock, hours on other days of operation remain limited.

No other terminal at Long Beach has announced any 24-hour operations, Peterson confirmed.

The operational details of transitioning to a 24/7 model are still being discussed and worked out, the report said. Seroka made remarks in an email after Biden's announcement that the president's words were "a call to action for others to follow" since systemic change of this magnitude would take the many branches of the supply chain to work in tandem.

Meanwhile, the POLB's executive director Mario Cordero acknowledged the importance of moving toward 24/7 operations.

"Before this unprecedented cargo surge began, we believed 24/7 operations were the future," Cordero said in a statement. "After all, consumers can shop online at any time, whether it's at 4 p.m. or 4 a.m., and 24/7 is already the standard at our partner ports in Asia. The supply chain truly never stops now."

Pushing the twin ports to operate 24/7 was regarded as an opportunity for Biden to promote his landmark infrastructure bill which has been grilled in Congress for months. The bill includes 17 billion U.S. dollars for port infrastructure, which represents the "biggest investment in our ports in our history," according to Biden.

The POLA and the neighboring POLB account for approximately 40 percent of the nation's imports, and they operate as a primary source of imports from China. Through August, Los Angeles and Long Beach moved 30 percent more and 20 percent more containers respectively.

Over 125,000 companies import cargo through the POLA every year, while another 75,000 companies export through its facilities, according to Fox news channel. Meanwhile, approximately 18,000 truck drivers are registered to do business at the port.

The ports fall behind the most modern ports in the world, Brian P. Klein, a geopolitical and economic strategist, wrote in a story published by the magazine of Barron's on Friday, noting "The U.S. is the world's largest importer, but its seaports are ranked as some of the worst globally. None make it into the top 50."

"Los Angeles and Long Beach together process roughly 40 percent of all incoming U.S. shipping containers. They come in at Nos. 328 and 333 out of 351 in an index of port performance published by the World Bank Group and IHS Markit," the Barron's story read.

In an Oct. 8 interview, Seroka said West Coast ports have experienced more than a decade of underinvestment by the federal government, adding that infrastructure improvements are needed to address the influx of cargo. For months, a backlog of ships has sat idle off the California coast waiting for their turn to dock.

On Thursday, 63 container ships were at anchor or adrift off the coast, according to the latest data released by Marine Exchange of Southern California. Enditem