Container Cargo Ship at the Port of Los Angeles. Photo by John Schreiber.

The Port of Los Angeles will begin operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday as part of a push from the White House to clear supply chain disruptions threatening the holiday shopping season and slowing the nation’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Round-the-clock operations were already in effect at the Port of Long Beach. The two ports are responsible for about 40% of all imports into the United States.

“Today I’m announcing that the Port of LA will begin operating around the clock 24/7 to make sure Americans can get the goods they need. My Administration is working around the clock to move more goods faster and strengthen the resiliency of our supply chains,” Biden tweeted Wednesday morning.

The Port of Los Angeles will nearly double the number of hours that cargo is transferred from container ships offshore to delivery trucks as crews work through the night. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union members will fill the extra shifts, according to the White House.

Major shippers and retailers, including Walmart, FedEx, UPS, Samsung, The Home Depot and Target, have agreed to speed up operations to clear cargo out of the ports and free up more space on the docks.

The goal is to process and unload 3,500 extra containers during the night each week.

“The Port of Los Angeles drives the U.S. economy forward and supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs. President Biden has called on us to help lead the nation out of this economic crisis, and we are answering that call by committing to operate our port 24 hours a day,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

“I am deeply grateful to the president and his team for working alongside us as we tackle the global supply chain issues impacting our port, and for bringing the country together to get goods moving more quickly to families and businesses. And I am proud of L.A.’s longshore workers, who are putting in long, difficult hours every day to keep our economy moving,” Garcetti added.

White House officials, including Vice President Kamala Harris, discussed the agreement during a private virtual roundtable conference Wednesday that included industry executives such as Los Angeles Port Executive Director Gene Seroka and Long Beach Port Executive Director Mario Cordero. That discussion focused on other steps needed to improve the flow of goods, including efforts to recruit and retain more long-haul truck drivers, a shortage of which has been a major blow to the nation’s supply chain.

“We have heard directly from the president, the vice president, (Transportation) Secretary Buttigieg, National Economic Council Director Deese, and Port Envoy Porcari. We have a lot of work ahead,” Seroka said. “The Port of LA is called America’s Port because cargo we handle reaches every corner of the country. In the days ahead, we are committed to continuing to be the convener to ensure the supply chain delivers for the American people.”

Seroka added that operation details are being hashed out with supply chain stakeholders.

Cargo ships have been anchored offshore from the two ports for weeks. There were 58 container ships reported offshore as of Tuesday morning, down from a reported peak of 73 container ships offshore two weeks ago.

“There is a perfect storm happening that is choking the global shipping industry,” said City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the port’s surrounding neighborhoods. “Every last inch of the goods movement chain has been strained to a breaking point. The (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) has announced its members are willing to work 24/7 to add capacity and help clear backlogs.

“But we must be mindful that the perfect storm includes chassis shortages, container shortages and shortages in trucking and warehouse workers,” Buscaino added. “Going to a 24/7 schedule also means we must be mindful of the neighborhoods near port operations. Wilmington already suffers from extreme truck traffic every day. We must ensure that it gets better, not worse.”

Biden introduced a Supply Chain Disruption Task Force in June to focus on transportation and logistic bottlenecks to the U.S. economic recovery. Port Envoy John Porcari was appointed in August to help drive coordination among private firms that control the transportation and logistics supply chain.

The Long Beach and Los Angeles ports are on track to reach new highs in container traffic this year, according to the White House. Through August, Los Angeles has moved 30% more and Long Beach over 20% more containers for U.S. exporters.

“This is big and overdue,” County Supervisor Janice Hahn wrote on her Twitter page in response to the announcement. “I’ve urged the port to operate 24/7 for years so we could move cargo off-peak. The sheer number of cargo ships waiting outside our ports can’t be good for our environment or our economy. This move will relieve the congestion and create jobs.”

The commitments announced Wednesday include:

— Walmart committing to increase its use of nighttime hours and increase throughput by as much as 50% over the next several weeks.

— UPS committing to an increased use of 24/7 operations and enhanced data sharing with the ports, which would allow it to move up to 20% more containers from the ports.

— FedEx committing to work to combine an increase in nighttime hours with changes to trucking and rail use to increase the volume of containers it will move from the ports. The changes could result in doubling the volume of cargo moved out of the ports at night.

— Samsung committing to move nearly 60% more containers out of the ports by operating 24/7 through the next 90 days.

— The Home Depot committing to move up to 10% additional containers per week during newly available off-peak hours at the Port of Long Beach and Port of Los Angeles.

— Target, moving about 50% of its containers at night, committing to increase that amount by 10% during the next 90 days to help ease congestion at the ports.

“I am glad the administration is finally acting on this issue and now it’s time to approve the Major Disaster Declaration I asked for more than a week ago. The backlog in our ports has caused ships to idle off our coastline for weeks, which may have contributed to the oil spill that devastated our community,” said Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Huntington Beach, who introduced legislation Tuesday to prohibit cargo ships from idling or anchoring off the coast of Orange County.

“I urge the president to approve this request and applaud these efforts to get these ships moving quickly and out of our coastal waters.”

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, called the announcement “welcome news” amid a “record surge in cargo shipments.

“As the holidays approach, we must continue to look for innovative ways to increase the movement of goods across the country,” Padilla said in a statement. “While this effort will help ease the flow of goods into the country, I look forward to working closely with the administration to address the remaining challenges in transporting goods from the ports to homes and businesses.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *