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What Needs to be Done to Alleviate Port Congestion

July 14, 2016
Ports need to provide better data visibility to all involved parties of the supply chain, says the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America. 

The National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, (NCBFAA) has let the U.S. Department of Commerce know that something needs to be done about congestion.

"When we are free of congestion, we are really just between bouts of congestion," explains Richard Roche, chairman of the group’s transportation committee. "Time has proven that we are constantly in a delicate balance of all the factors necessary to keep ports running smoothly until such time as some outward force throws everything off, whereupon we quickly spiral downward."

In a July 11 letter to the US Department of Commerce, Roche itemizes 20 current issues, e.g., larger vessels, lack of analytics, driver dissatisfaction, hours of service diminished by wait times, terminal hopping, chassis hoarding, among others; and offered 16 possible solutions, e.g., gate hour changes, better vessel planning and equipment staging, revolving labor shifts, appointment system pilot program, grey fleet for chassis shortage, greater use of RFID tag data, higher pay for drivers, among others.

Some of the suggestions he makes include:

  • Longer gate hours including extended weekday hours, all Saturdays or 7 days per week
  • Appointment system needs a Pilot Program
  • Incentivize ‘non-gate’ movements like barge or rail in lieu of truck
  • Grey fleet needed to help solve chassis shortage
  • RFID Tag  data needs to be measured and published to identify actual turn times outside and within terminals.
  • Measurement of terminal productivity and process times to automatically trigger extending free time when terminals cannot preform
  • Driver pay must increase

As part of the Dept. of Commerce’s request for public comment on U.S. seaport efficiency and competitiveness issues for its 21st Century U.S. Port Competitiveness Initiative, they posed a series of questions. Here are a few answers provided by the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America.

Q: What are the most important challenges and opportunities facing U.S. port-related operations and efficiency?

A: The three most important are:

  • Larger vessel calls that concentrate more import and export containers on terminals
  • Gate hours insufficient to accept flow
  • Better forecasting needed for planning/scheduling labor and equipment

Q: What are the best practices for improving port-related operations?

A: The three most important are:

  • Forecasting container availability
  • Gate hours consistent with anticipated flow
  • Better data visibility to all involved parties of the supply chain dependent on flow.

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