Biden plan to run LA port 24/7 to break backlog falls short

National

FILE – Shipping containers are stacked over a truck at the Port of Los Angeles Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Los Angeles. One month after President Joe Biden announced an agreement to have the Port of Los Angeles operate round-the-clock to help break a cargo backlog at the docks, officials disclose that hasn’t happened as they contend with a shortage of truck drivers and accessible warehouse space. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — President Joe Biden announced a deal last month to establish around-the-clock operations at the Port of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest, to break an unprecedented container ship traffic jam blamed for driving up consumer prices.

But that hasn’t happened yet.

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said in an online briefing Tuesday that the sprawling complex has “24/7 capability,” but a shortage of truck drivers and nighttime warehouse workers pose problems in establishing a nonstop schedule, along with getting importers to embrace expanded hours.

“It’s an effort to try to get this entire orchestra of supply chain players to get on the same calendar,” he said. Among thousands of importers, “we’ve had very few takers to date.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that going to a 24 hour-a-day schedule at the busiest port in the Western Hemisphere “is, of course, not flipping the switch. There are so many players, even just on the grounds of port.”

As for moving cargo, Seroka said there was encouraging news: Since Oct. 24, the port witnessed a 25% drop in the number of import containers on the docks — from 95,000 to to 71,000. During the same time, cargo sitting nine days or longer dropped by 29%, he said.

“There’s much more work to be done on this front but great progress by our dock workers, shipping lines, truckers, marine terminal operators and railroad partners,” he said.

With container ships stranded at ports and unloaded goods waiting for trucks, the White House hoped the longer workday at the port would help loosen the bottleneck and cut into shipping delays for everything from cars to toasters to sneakers.

As of Tuesday, there were 84 container ships waiting offshore to get into the Port of Los Angeles or its neighboring sister port in Long Beach, an improvement from some recent days when the number topped 100. In normal busy times, only a handful of ships have to wait to dock.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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