Port of Oakland says no to business as usual
By: AJOT | Mar 05 2015 at 10:58 AM | Ports & Terminals
Change needed as West Coast recovery begins
Disruptions from waterfront labor negotiations have waned, but don’t expect a return to business as usual at West Coast ports. “The old methods won’t work any longer,” Port of Oakland executive director Chris Lytle said here today.
Addressing shippers and other stakeholders at a meeting of The Waterfront Coalition, Mr. Lytle said his industry must change, “We can’t go back to the way it was; that’s not acceptable,” he told an audience that included federal maritime commission Chairman Mario Cordero. “We have to do a better job for our customers if we want to hold onto our market share.”
Mr. Lytle joined other West Coast port executives in addressing the aftermath of nine months of labor-management disputes on the waterfront. The longshore contract impasse ended February 20 with a tentative settlement of a new contract for ports from Seattle to San Diego.
Ports now are digging out from a cargo backlog that has hampered retailers and other shippers in the US. Mr. Lytle called for a number of improvements to reshape his industry as recovery from the labor dispute gets underway. They include:
“We need a new mindset for negotiating,” Mr. Lytle said. “What we just went through was the worst experience in my professional career. I don’t want to go through that again.”
- Reduced transaction times for harbor truck drivers who can spend more than two hours inside marine terminals picking up cargo;
- Better measurement of terminal operating performance; and
- A new labor-management relationship.
Mr. Lytle said there is an opportunity for ports to play a greater role in labor relations by working with labor and management for greater collaboration.
The Port of Oakland does not hire longshore labor. That is the role of terminal operators and shipping lines in the Pacific Maritime Association. Nevertheless, Mr. Lytle said the port will meet with local labor officials and encourage them to take part in talks with shippers who rely on the Port of Oakland to move their cargo. “Better understanding of shipper needs can lead to better outcomes in future bargaining,” he added.
Mr. Lytle said the port will work with terminal operators to develop uniform methods of collecting and distributing performance data. Shippers and the truck drivers they hire have asked for the information to streamline the pick up and delivery of containerized cargo.
“The port will also work with leasing companies to improve the availability of truck chassis,” Mr. Lytle added. These are the trailers used to haul cargo containers over the road. Chassis have been in short supply at all West Coast sports during the recent cargo build up. Mr. Lytle indicated that the Port will work toward a common pool of the trailers to prevent shortages from recurring.