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A focus on 24/7 operations is front and center for Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach


Now, that both the Port of Los Angeles (POLB) and Port of Long Beach (POLB) are fully on board with making a move to 24/7 operations to work through a significant inbound cargo backload brought on by unprecedented demand levels, equipment shortages, and labor issues, the ports are ready to take the next steps to augment throughput and work through the myriad challenges they have faced, as they collectively account for the roughly 40% of U.S.-bound imports.

As reported by LM yesterday, the White House met this week with United States-based business leaders, port leaders, and union leaders to focus on the challenges U.S.-based ports are facing, in addition to what each stakeholder group can do address various supply chain issues.

One of the key themes of that meeting was augmenting supply chain throughput and moving goods more quickly, and also to augment supply chain resiliency. A key cornerstone of this, it said, is shifting to 24/7 operations at the Ports of Los Angeles (POLA) and POLB), whom collectively account for roughly 40% of U.S.-bound import containers and are on track to set new annual highs in 2021.

While POLB transitioned to 24/7 operations in mid-September, POLA is now doing the same, bringing on off-peak night time shifts and weekend hours, which the White House said is expected to double the number of hours cargo can move off of POLA docks and onto the roads to reach final destinations. What’s more, it added that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has stated its membership are committed to working extra shifts, which will provide the needed capacity in order to clear existing backlogs.

The White House explained that “Unlike leading ports around the world, U.S. ports have failed to realize the full possibility offered by operation on nights and weekends. Moving goods during off-peak hours can help move goods out of ports faster.”

And it outlined efforts being undertaken by some of the largest retailers—including Walmart, Samsung, The Home Depot, Target, ands UPS and FedEx—to leverage 24/7 U.S. port operations, which are cumulatively expected to move 3,500 more containers per week, at night, through the end of 2021.

POLA Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a statement that operational details, for POLA 24/7 operations, are being discussed and worked out with the supply chain stakeholders. 

“The significance of [this] announcement is the commitment from industry leaders responsible for moving goods on behalf of American consumers and businesses to open up the capacity needed to deliver,” said Seroka. “It's a call to action for others to follow. We have heard directly from the President, the Vice President, Secretary Buttigieg, National Economic Council Director Deese, and Port Envoy Porcari. We have a lot of work ahead. 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.”

On a POLA-hosted media call today, United States Port Envoy John Porcari, Port Envoy to the Biden-Harris Administration Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force and former Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the Department of Transportation in the Obama-Biden administration (2009-2014), said that that it was worth noting that for President Biden to be focused on activity at POLA and POLB and goods movement, in general, is really unprecedented.

“That really shows the direct link between our nation’s economy and the goods movement chain, which starts at our ports,” he said. “The move to a 24/7 push system will really energize [operations],” he said. “Over the last several weeks, we have secured commitments from some of the largest beneficial cargo owners to move to a 24/7 distribution model. That really helps clear the docks. And, as a nation, we need to move to a 24/7 supply chain. The ports are doing their end, cargo owners have stepped up and are doing their end, and now we need to energize the rest of the system to pick up both the fluidity and velocity of the system.”

Porcari pointed to container ship dwell times as a great measure for how things can progress and improve through 24/port operations, with dwell times being measured in different ways, including on-dock, rail, or at warehouses and distribution centers. And he added that this private sector-driven system is only as good as its weakest link.

“If containers are dwelling on chassis at distribution centers and not unloaded for 11 days, or even four days, that slows the entire system,” he said. “Dwell time is probably the best key performance indicator throughout the system. We are also seeing indications of the rest of the system moving towards more of a 24/7 basis, and we want to make sure we are specifically measuring that as well.”

With the commitments received by both the BCOs and POLA and POLB, Porcari said the next step is moving to the tactical part, in the form of operating action meetings that kick off tomorrow and will focus on, and work through, specific issues that are seen as barriers to 24/7 operations.

“This is not flipping on a light switch…it is a series of individual, discrete, problem-solving actions that lower the barriers to 24/7 operation and increase those volumes,” he said. “As a nation, having the flexibility and the fluidity of 24/7 operations is really important. I think we understand that the whole U.S. supply chain, as well as globally, was creeping along pre-pandemic. The pandemic laid bare its increased volumes with different buying patterns a system that really needs to be modified. The way we can do that, in the short term together, is to move towards more 24/7 operations. We are going to knock down the barriers like bowling pins and keep moving.”    

POLB perspective: POLB officials highlighted the commitment by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) in agreeing to work extra house and making it possible for private businesses to adjust their operations to move cargo 24/7 to clear the backlog.

They added that POLB Executive Director Mario Cordero initially introduced the concept of 24/7 port operations before the pandemic, at the State of the Port address in January 2019.

“Whenever we are faced with a crisis here, it’s our philosophy to channel it into something positive,” Cordero said in a statement. “Before this unprecedented cargo surge began, we believed 24/7 operations were the future. 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, and we’re thankful to the Biden administration for using its influence to ensure cargo is always moving.”


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About the Author

Jeff Berman's avatar
Jeff Berman
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review and is a contributor to Robotics 24/7. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis.
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