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Western Railroad Discussion > WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach


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Date: 03/31/21 08:06
WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: MSE

Good morning, everyone,

Like you, I get frustrated when people post articles behind paywalls but this is rather extraordinary: https://www.wsj.com/articles/americas-imports-are-stuck-on-ships-floating-just-off-los-angeles-11617183002?mod=hp_lead_pos5   It is difficult to convey all of the information because of the interactive graphics. Here are a couple of excerpts:

The sudden uptick in shipments last year after a lull in the spring and summer “shocked and choked the goods movement system,” Capt. Louttit said. The extra ships arrived when the system was operating at reduced capacity and efficiency, a bottleneck partly due to transportation and logistics personnel being off the job because of Covid-19 infections and exposure, he said.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach continue to work through the backlog as the number of ships arriving continues to rise. In February of this year, 177 container ships and more than 800,000 containers (in 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs) arrived at the ports. That’s 31% more ships and 49% more containers than the same month last year.


The ships waiting to unload (accounting for 24 times the tonnage of cargo that was stuck in the Suez Canal) are continuing their backlog and that the problem is not going to resolve itself quickly. 

My comment: COVID has demonstrated the weakness in "just-in-time" inventories and the elmination of so many warehouses that occurred in the '90's and '00's. And, while an obvious point, it has demonstrated the folly of outsourcing so much of our high-value manufacturing. 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/31/21 09:30 by MSE.



Date: 03/31/21 09:21
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: Lkirts

It won't be ending soon, still short 40' chassis inland.



Date: 03/31/21 10:23
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: bradleymckay

I was told both UP and BNSF have put back in service every well car that had been in long term storage. That includes the ones that had been stored on sidings along UP's ex-DRGW mainline.

Allen

Posted from Android



Date: 03/31/21 11:04
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: Zephyr

Let's not forget some of the other factors leading to this massive slow down at the Ports of LA and LB.
-Labor productivity outside of the slow down caused by COVID-19
-Marine Terminal management and overall productivity.  Some of the former privately owned marine on-dock terminals were sold to third parties in the past 5 years and the overall productivity has decreased outside of labor issues. Former owners of these facilities are now at the mercy of the terminal operator who is attempting to prioritize a number of customers at the same time and what they're really interested in is making money by charging the users
-Inconsistent rail service.  Both BNSF and UPRR were slammed by severe winter storms that interrupted the flow of intermodal trains
-Chassis.  The former model of container shipping companies owning their own chassis is long gone.  That means the container shipping companies are now at the mercy of either pool operators and/or truckers who control the chassis.  If there are no chassis at the marine terminals, then the containers get stacked.  If a container on the bottom of a stack needs to be lifted to a truck or shuttled to a railcar, extra moves are required to "uncover" that container
-Truckers.  There has been and continues to be a serious shortage of truckers in Southern California.  This means containers stay on marine terminals longer than average waiting for a trucker and/or chassis.
-Railroads reluctance to haul short mile intermodal loads.  Approximately 75% of the LA local inbound loads off vessels are trucked to the "Inland Empire" distribution centers.  All you have to do is watch Interstate 710, 5, 10 and Highways 60 and 91 in Southern California and you will see hundreds if not thousands of international containers going back and forth on a daily basis between the ports and the Inland Empire.  What an opportunity for the railroads!  Yes, it would take an Inland Empire intermodal facility near these distribution centers, and there is land available.  But the railroads have never really bought into a less than 500 mile intermodal haul, fearing use of assets for these short hauls would degrade capability of making the long haul.  Maybe it's time for the state and counties to push for this to ease the traffic congestion on the aforementioned highways.  A couple of 100 platform shuttle trains per day between the ports and the Inland Empire could remove approximately 1000 containers from the highway each day!  So, you see, it's not just COVID-19 that has exposed the infrastructure "opportunities" in Southern California.  One could say it's a perfect storm, but some of this is self inflicted inefficiency that was accomplished for short term gain and the reluctance to implement new ways of moving containers.

Pete
Clio, California
 



Date: 03/31/21 11:34
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: PHall

The railroads doing the short haul from the ports to the Inland Empire will never, ever happen. Reason: Time.
Even with LA traffic, trucks can make the move in a couple of hours. Railroads might be able to do it in 2 or 3 days, maybe.
And you still have to have the truckers move the containers from the Inland Empire yards to the warehouses.
And very few, if any, of them have rail service.



Date: 03/31/21 11:53
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: Zephyr

The shortage of truckers, exacerbated by the congestion at the marine terminals, which, in most cases, is limiting a trucker to one round trip per day, will eventually force a change.  A strategically centrally located, dedicated shuttle intermodal facility in the Inland Empire solves many issues.  The rails need to make a fair revenue on the move and given the $300-$400 truck cost for a roundtrip today, I believe they can. 



Date: 03/31/21 11:53
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: Joe90

Problems are huge. Even a terminal such as APM have a limited number of gantry cranes to serve four vessels at a time even if there was space to place them , secondly lots of loaded trains at the ports but they are barely worked on the weekends .One would think the railroads could increase efficency by moving loade trains going east in a more timely fashion . It's not only LB and LA with a backlog , sixteen vessels awaiting berths at Oakland yesterday too!



Date: 03/31/21 11:55
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: trainjunkie

PHall Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The railroads doing the short haul from the ports
> to the Inland Empire will never, ever happen.
> Reason: Time.
> Even with LA traffic, trucks can make the move in
> a couple of hours. Railroads might be able to do
> it in 2 or 3 days, maybe.
> And you still have to have the truckers move the
> containers from the Inland Empire yards to the
> warehouses.
> And very few, if any, of them have rail service.

The ramps are already above capacity anyway.



Date: 03/31/21 12:02
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: BigSkyBlue

The problems/opportunities are large.  The question is if any rail management is interested/willing or permitted by owners/shareholders to go beyond the conventional and/or PSR parameters, that have for decades resulted in profits, but not necessarily increased market share or increases in traffic.  We await the answers.  BSB



Date: 03/31/21 12:15
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: Badorder

bradleymckay Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I was told both UP and BNSF have put back in
> service every well car that had been in long term
> storage. That includes the ones that had been
> stored on sidings along UP's ex-DRGW mainline.
>
> Allen
>
> Posted from Android


Not just wells cars but idle stored locomotives and furlough employees needs to be put back in play.

Proud Foamer
OAKLEY, CA



Date: 03/31/21 12:54
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: tehachcond

Zephyr Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Let's not forget some of the other factors leading
> to this massive slow down at the Ports of LA and
> LB.
> -Labor productivity outside of the slow down
> caused by COVID-19
> -Marine Terminal management and overall
> productivity.  Some of the former privately owned
> marine on-dock terminals were sold to third
> parties in the past 5 years and the overall
> productivity has decreased outside of labor
> issues. Former owners of these facilities are now
> at the mercy of the terminal operator who is
> attempting to prioritize a number of customers at
> the same time and what they're really interested
> in is making money by charging the users
> -Inconsistent rail service.  Both BNSF and UPRR
> were slammed by severe winter storms that
> interrupted the flow of intermodal trains
> -Chassis.  The former model of container shipping
> companies owning their own chassis is long gone.
>  That means the container shipping companies are
> now at the mercy of either pool operators and/or
> truckers who control the chassis.  If there are
> no chassis at the marine terminals, then the
> containers get stacked.  If a container on the
> bottom of a stack needs to be lifted to a truck or
> shuttled to a railcar, extra moves are required to
> "uncover" that container
> -Truckers.  There has been and continues to be a
> serious shortage of truckers in Southern
> California.  This means containers stay on marine
> terminals longer than average waiting for a
> trucker and/or chassis.
> -Railroads reluctance to haul short mile
> intermodal loads.  Approximately 75% of the LA
> local inbound loads off vessels are trucked to the
> "Inland Empire" distribution centers.  All you
> have to do is watch Interstate 710, 5, 10 and
> Highways 60 and 91 in Southern California and you
> will see hundreds if not thousands of
> international containers going back and forth on a
> daily basis between the ports and the Inland
> Empire.  What an opportunity for the railroads!
>  Yes, it would take an Inland Empire intermodal
> facility near these distribution centers, and
> there is land available.  But the railroads have
> never really bought into a less than 500 mile
> intermodal haul, fearing use of assets for these
> short hauls would degrade capability of making the
> long haul.  Maybe it's time for the state and
> counties to push for this to ease the traffic
> congestion on the aforementioned highways.  A
> couple of 100 platform shuttle trains per day
> between the ports and the Inland Empire could
> remove approximately 1000 containers from the
> highway each day!  So, you see, it's not just
> COVID-19 that has exposed the infrastructure
> "opportunities" in Southern California.  One
> could say it's a perfect storm, but some of this
> is self inflicted inefficiency that was
> accomplished for short term gain and the
> reluctance to implement new ways of moving
> containers.
>
> Pete
> Clio, California

Pete, I heard third-hand that the  Intermodal terminal that was built at City of Industry was originally supposed to be built out in the Inland Empire somewhere.  If this is true, I wonder what happened to that idea, and your thoughts would be welcome.

Brian Black
Castle Rock, CO
>  



Date: 03/31/21 15:19
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: Lackawanna484

Wasn't one of the benefits of the Alameda Trench going to be the short hauled trailers and boxes coming out by rail?



Date: 03/31/21 15:35
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: MSE

That's why I thought from reading articles in Trains and elsewhere. In fact, wasn't that part of how they justified public funding?

What happened?



Lackawanna484 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Wasn't one of the benefits of the Alameda Trench
> going to be the short hauled trailers and boxes
> coming out by rail?



Date: 03/31/21 15:56
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: coach

Add to all of this mess the Longshoremen's Union.  They are horribly slow at the entry gates up here in Oakland.  With major attitudes, including sending trucks to the back of the line with no freight if you questions things a bit.  Horrible system.  Everyone hates them.  They will end up losing their jobs one day to automation.



Date: 03/31/21 18:41
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: Sp1110

Does BNSF have trackage rights on the Harbor Subdivision?



Date: 03/31/21 18:46
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: funnelfan

The ocean shipping industry has mostly put themselves into this position. Most of the container cranes at Seattle and Portland sit idle these days. And I'm sure there is more capacity to be found at Tacoma as well.
 

Ted Curphey
Cheney, WA



Date: 03/31/21 20:30
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: atsf121

bradleymckay Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I was told both UP and BNSF have put back in
> service every well car that had been in long term
> storage. That includes the ones that had been
> stored on sidings along UP's ex-DRGW mainline.
>
> Allen
>
> Posted from Android

I wonder if the set I saw along the Salt Lake - LA route a month ago is part of that reactivated group. Unfortunately my next drive won’t be that way, but would be surprised if they haven’t been. I’m curious to see how busy Cajon will be this weekend.

Nathan

Posted from iPhone



Date: 03/31/21 21:05
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: wyeth

funnelfan Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The ocean shipping industry has mostly put
> themselves into this position. Most of the
> container cranes at Seattle and Portland sit idle
> these days. And I'm sure there is more capacity to
> be found at Tacoma as well.
>  

Exactly.  The international shipping companies moved most of their operations to where they thought it would be most profitable, but now they're all pissee because the infrastructure there can't handle it.  In addition, they seem to expect that the railroads should have all the equipment and man power needed, at their calling, to handle this surge in business.

Reminds me of the farmers and grain shippers that get all upset at the railroads for not having enough cars and capacity to ship their products when the price is the highest and every farmer, coop, etc is also trying to ship their products at the same time.  They seem to expect that the railroads should have everything they need, when they want it, no matter how ridiculous the cost for these investments are to the railroads.  Then when the prices drop and they start sitting on their crops, what does the railroads do with all those expensive cars, infrastructure, and crews that now have no work...



Date: 03/31/21 21:46
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: SP8100

wyeth Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> funnelfan Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > The ocean shipping industry has mostly put
> > themselves into this position. Most of the
> > container cranes at Seattle and Portland sit
> idle
> > these days. And I'm sure there is more capacity
> to
> > be found at Tacoma as well.
> >  
>
> Exactly.  The international shipping companies
> moved most of their operations to where they
> thought it would be most profitable, but now
> they're all pissee because the infrastructure
> there can't handle it.  In addition, they seem to
> expect that the railroads should have all the
> equipment and man power needed, at their calling,
> to handle this surge in business.
>
> Reminds me of the farmers and grain shippers that
> get all upset at the railroads for not having
> enough cars and capacity to ship their products
> when the price is the highest and every farmer,
> coop, etc is also trying to ship their products at
> the same time.  They seem to expect that the
> railroads should have everything they need, when
> they want it, no matter how ridiculous the cost
> for these investments are to the railroads.  Then
> when the prices drop and they start sitting on
> their crops, what does the railroads do with all
> those expensive cars, infrastructure, and crews
> that now have no work...

Funnelfan,

I have been seeing a lot of Tacoma stack train symbols on the Youtube Chehalis webcam, so I would think there would be less idle cranes there than Portland and Seattle..    S-TACLPC, S-TCELPC and their counterparts are running the long way via Vancouver, Wash. and not over BNSF Scenic Sub..   In the last few days, have seen a S-SEALPC and a S-LPCSEA come by via Chehalis, Washington.



SP8100



Date: 03/31/21 22:21
Re: WSJ: The Backlog at Ports of Los Angeles & Long Beach
Author: PHall

Lackawanna484 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Wasn't one of the benefits of the Alameda Trench
> going to be the short hauled trailers and boxes
> coming out by rail?

That was before all the warehouses started popping up all over the Inland Empire.



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