Winter Has Hit Terminals, Too

From my perspective the JOC article titled “NY-NJ Port Mess ‘Worst Ever’” does a significant disservice to a number of the participants within the harbor that are attempting to address a very difficult situation, which in large measure was brought on by events beyond their control.

The Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays and their associated no-work days, combined with the weather events that have plagued us through most of January, together with the off-schedule vessel arrivals due to inclement weather on the Pacific or the Atlantic, have indeed created a difficult situation.

There is no doubt that our trucking community has been negatively impacted by all the aforementioned problems. They are not alone, however, in suffering through the difficulties we are facing.

The terminal operators have gone to extraordinary lengths to try to cope with congestion, weather conditions, and limited labor availability based on weather conditions. I am not sure you can appreciate what it’s like to try and lift a container when the corner castings are filled with ice and snow. I am not sure you can appreciate what it’s like to drive a top loader or a straddle carrier when your wheels are slipping and you suddenly recognize your brakes are ineffective on the ice. I am not sure you fully appreciate what it’s like to stand out on a stringpiece working a vessel at 3 a.m. with the snow driving into your face. Or to sit in a crane cab trying to work a vessel and lift the container 100 feet below in driving snow.

I could go on with a number of similar situations dealing with our maintenance personnel who have to release frozen brakes, our lashers on vessels that are risking their well-being by trying to break ice clogged twist locks, etc. Suffice it to say we are in a challenging environment and there is much shared suffering in the harbor.

I would speculate that over the last 30 days there has been well in excess of several million dollars spent on efforts to open terminals and service our community. None of these funds are recoverable. All of us within the industry are negatively impacted by the current situation.

I know the harbor has come together and has tried to address the issues that we are facing. I believe the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has done a good job of stepping up to the table and coordinating activities within the harbor so as to ensure the safety of both the truckers and the workforce. The port authority has facilitated several conference calls focused on what incremental steps we can take to help improve these situations.

The JOC article’s focus on the trucking community is legitimate BUT there is another important aspect of the story which you have failed to cover. I note that I have not read anything recently about congestion issues at other ports that have also been impacted by some of the same conditions that have hit New York-New Jersey.

Jim Devine is president and CEO of GCT USA, which operates Global Terminal and New York Container Terminal.

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