As of Saturday, Oct. 9, all 13 marine container terminals at the ports will have reinstated a fifth OffPeak gate shift, up from 11 terminals in September, responding to the rebound in cargo volumes this year.
When cargo volumes plunged in 2008 and 2009, terminal operators suffered deep losses and were forced to reduce costs by cutting one OffPeak shift and other types of service. With the increase in cargo in 2010, the terminals have been reinstating services. In addition to the fifth OffPeak shift, terminals have added back the noon hour relief and flex gates.
Marine terminal operators (MTOs) continue to adjust their hours and staffing as market conditions change. Lines of trucks waiting to enter the terminals have eased in the last couple months, as the terminals added back labor and additional shifts, while the strong cargo growth seen earlier in 2010 has flattened.
APM Terminals has said it is preparing to begin using an appointment system on Oct. 19. Meanwhile, four other terminals that had been working to set up appointment systems have put the rollouts on hold, based on the recent improvement in wait times and the flattening out of cargo volume growth.
Trucking companies have been less than enthusiastic about the appointment systems under discussion. In a June survey of 500 trucking companies, only 24 percent of respondents indicated they have found appointments to be helpful (three terminals had existing appointment systems). Terminal operators will continue to review the benefits of appointment systems within the contexts of their individual terminals.
The terminals have also modified their plans for handling ILWU Stop Work meetings. The terminals in August announced that when a Thursday OffPeak gate is closed for ILWU Stop Work meetings, the MTOs will add an extra Friday OffPeak gate the following day. Last week, nine of the 13 terminals said they had suspended the plan, after determining that the cargo volume during that shift wouldn’t justify the cost. The remaining four (PCT, C60, WBCT, EMS) will move forward with adding the extra Friday OffPeak gate.
The year’s fifth Stop Work meeting – possibly the last one for 2010 – will be this Thursday night, Oct. 7.