Shipping bottleneck at Los Angles / Long Beach

Agreed and understood that there is more involved than just unloading boxes off the ships. As you said, they have to be placed on some vehicle to be moved two temporary storage at the port, and then moved again onto a vehicle to take them outside of the port. That creates a lot of opportunity to move the bottle neck from unloading the ship, to moving them to storage, to moving them out of the port.

However, if the port is only working two shifts to unload the ships, and isn’t letting conveyance to take place from the port to wherever, there is going to be a bottleneck with 50 ships at anchor. My annoyance is with the port not working 24/7. The port spokesman, Hacegaba, said they were only working five days a week, two shifts. My annoyance is with the port not working 24/7, not with the absence of truckers, or warehouse space outside of the port, which is still open for investigation… Not with the absence of truckers, or warehouse space outside of the Port, which is still open for investigation.

With the caveat that there is nothing in California that I like (having been born there and being smart enough to move out in 1995) it wouldn’t surprise me about what you said about union truckers and owner operators. Maybe the libs would provide a carve-out for the O/O truckers, like they did for the Jones act and the cruise ships! (Said with a lot of sarcasm)

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Where I work (Seattle) the situation with longshoremen/container terminals is this:
There are only so many longshoremen to begin with. Not a big group. Purposely kept small, to keep wages up, IMO. Out numbering longshoremen by far are the non-union temp drivers hired by stevedoring companies to move the containers around and away from the terminal, to where they need to go. (The temps are paid little more than minimum wage, by the way). To increase production at the terminal you would need more longshoremen and more temps, in the midst of a labor shortage. Unless the longshoremen/temps work longer hours.

I remember a thread here just the other day about how some mariners (not me) found it “inhuman” for other mariners to work 6/6 off. Unsafe, they said (not me). But do those same mariners now expect longshoremen to now work “inhuman” hours?

I confine my remarks to how things are done with containers in Seattle. I’m no expert on LB/LA.

It’s quite possible for an over-the-road long haul truck driver to earn over $100,000. Truck driving school is only a few weeks long. New truck drivers can be hired and trained quickly.

Why is there a shortage of truck drivers? Drug testing (including for pot that is legal in many states)? Does it take more money to entice drug free people into truck driving? Short haul truck driver wages far too low? No overtime for truck drivers in interstate commerce?

If LA/LB put the word out that they are paying $50 an hour for temp truck drivers (that less than what longshoremen earn with lavish benefits), and if drug testing were temporarily suspended, within a few weeks there would be plenty of temp truck drivers to haul containers out of the ports.

With current container rates, don’t tell me they cannot afford $50 an hour for temp truck drivers with no benefits.

I hear part of the problem is the DMV’s in California are not open, or are open and very behind on testing and reissuing of licenses for available truck drivers. Additionally, elsewhere older and more experienced truckers decided to step aside and/or retire due to COVID and delta strain concerns.

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US container imports stay at near record levels:

I sailed for decades and the only time a dock did not work was if they were broke down or a few docks took time at Christmas for a 24 hour period. That was on the lakes and that still is the current practice. Ship arrives, it loads or unloads, no lost time. With a self-unloader just tell us where you want it and we’ll handle it ourselves.

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Here’s the big picture on container slowdowns (simplified):
A large part of the U.S. economy is digital services. Example: Iphones are the least valuable product Apples sells. Apple makes its money on iOS, the phones’ operating system, and on cloud storage. Take a photo with your cell, you’re using iOS. You then pay to store the photo on the cloud. 1 billion people do this. That’s what the U.S. “exports” now. A very lucrative business. The IT sector increased due to the pandemic (Zoom meeting tech, etc.). So, tech workers make more money, and buy more stuff from China.

What China exports is cheap consumer goods that American Apple workers want. So, there is a net inflow of containers to the USA. It looks like a trade imbalance, but it’s not. It’s just that the digital transportation chain (cables/satellites/radio waves) for American IT services are invisible, as opposed to the Chinese transportation chain (ships/container) which are very visible, and which keep flowing in, due to American prosperity, in numbers now exceeding the amount of chassis and drivers to haul them around.

Chassis are expensive, and require lots of maintenance, insurance, and monitoring. A safety thing. No one wants to invest in more of them, only to be stuck with them when the pandemic-rush is over. Also, there’s a driver shortage. Why? Because much of the populace is playing a massive game of musical chairs with jobs, looking for a better position before the music ends.

We can pay drivers more to attract them, but there are side effects. Example: When schools shutdown in 2020, bus drivers were out of work. A lot went to work for Amazon as drivers. When schools re-opened, bus drivers were not to be found. So schools don’ t have enough drivers. Similarly, increase pay for short haul truck drivers and long haul drivers may quit to become short haul drivers. A zero sum game.

Want to solve the container slowdown issue? Americans need to stop being so prosperous, or stop buying so much crap.


It’s about equilibrium and supply and demand.

Covid related problems have caused a surge in demand. Should cause prices to raise and worker pay to increase which will cause an equilibrium at a different point.

But this surge is likely only temporary. If the system has an equilibrium point at two shifts (because of high longshore pay for that 3rd shift and thus more investment in port infrastructure) that actually gives the system more surge capacity than had the system settled at three shifts with fewer berths and cranes.

Far quicker, cheaper and easier to add a third shift than to add berths and cranes.


The issue isn’t the longshoreman working bankers hours, and suggesting they change their schedules wouldn’t fix the problem that they can only turn a ship around as fast as the trucks can come and go.

I’m not positive, but crane operators in LA/LB don’t work more than 4 hrs a wack. I am not sure if training and hiring more crane operators would make a difference? I have yet to hear the suggestion that they are short on man power in that respect.

I do know that generally speaking, the folks doing the lashing, driving the UTRs and clerks work three different shifts. Its not split up 8/8/8 either. The night shift pays the most and is only a 5-6 hr shift i believe.

I hear casual laborers can easily get out 6 days a week these days.

From what I hear locally, you can only turn a ship around as fast as the trucks can come and go. Yards are jam packed full of boxes. Would hiring more casuals help? Once again, they can only go as fast as the trucks can get in and out of port.

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I think the longshoremen working-hours-thing isn’t the issue. I look outside my window at longshoremen offloading vessels fifty feet from me (albeit palletized cargo vs. container), but the same dynamic is in play: doesn’t matter how fast you get it off the boat, you gotta get it out of the terminal on wheels.

The hold up isn’t the longshoremen, but the lack of conveyances to put the cargo in. A large part of that is lack of chassis. A container without a chassis is like a car without a chassis–useless. The difference is, the car/chassis ratio is always 1:1, whereas the container/chassis ratio is more like 500:1. Reducing the chassis supply a little slows down container transport a lot. The only other way to move containers overland is railcars. They’re in short supply also, and only marginally useful because the containers still need to get put on chassis at their destination.

Yes, from what I’m hearing, there is a lack of truckers, chassis, etc. Then there is the problem of MT boxes to be routed back into service. And of our railroad freight capacity I can only imagine what a cluster-F that is at the moment.

Big cohort of oldfart truckers my age are hanging up the bridle and saddle.

It does seem as though everyone is searching for a point-source in what appears to be a systemic failure. It is easier to assign blame to a smaller number of factors and deal with them one at a time, rather than systemically, but I can’t help but think that this may not be effective.

Another thought is that if we do want to manage the issue on a point-by-point basis and focus efforts on a point-source, if the effects of California’s AB5 (operator and vehicle restrictions) is as significant a source of the delays as has been suggested, why is no one advocating for a waiver on the regulations emplaced on this relatively new law? I haven’t seen anything addressed to dealing with vehicle and operator restrictions, whether as a point-source or as part of larger systemic changes.
Speaking for myself, I can’t see any singe point of change having sufficient impact to be significant, but nonetheless it makes me wonder if there are ideas too taboo for discussion.

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Big bottlenecks have little bottlenecks and little bottlenecks have lesser bottlenecks and so on.

Maybe a long term idea that could help ports around the world (incl, LA/LB) keeping up with demand:

PS> which Port is on the picture?? (I don’t know)

Yantian International Container Terminal in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China


Where you store is optional. Cloud or local disk. I use large portable HDDs and backup to them.

A post was split to a new topic: Oakland pitches for boxes

So true dude

Road Master School is 4 + weeks, 12 thousand dollars and you still have to start as a JR driver which means you have to find a company that has a training program and Pays one of their drivers extra to ride with you, and not separately, The senior driver has to be up while you drive Meaning also the Company pays for hotels. I don’t know how many hours you need, But it takes awhile before you are let loose,