Don Snyder is director of trade and maritime services at the Port of Long Beach. He has 28 years of experience in the transportation industry, including executive positions with ocean carriers and shippers. Snyder was manager of import-export logistics at Mattel Inc. before joining the port.
Q. Cargo volumes at the Southern California port complex are running about 12 percent higher than last year. What are the ports doing to minimize congestion during the 2006 peak season?
A. We are using our position as landlord port authorities to facilitate communication among the various transportation interests to ensure that they are ready for the peak season. In late March Long Beach sponsored the second annual Pulse of the Ports seminar, in which experts from eight industry segments presented their peak-season forecasts. Our tenants operate the marine terminals and provide the capital investment for equipment and manpower, but as landlords, the ports help to keep lines of communication open between the terminals and other transportation companies and service providers. Similarly, we collaborate with our tenants and their vendors on issues that affect port productivity, such as sponsoring workshops on the Customs-clearance process and the PierPass extended-gates program. The ports have also provided seed money for private-sector initiatives such as trucker appointment systems and establishment of a virtual container yard for street exchanges of empty containers.
Q. The decision last year by the ports to reduce free storage time on imported containers to four days from five days helped to relieve congestion on the docks. How do you enforce the free-time provision? Do you anticipate a further reduction in free time?
A. The reduction in free time has helped to reduce container dwell time and therefore congestion at the marine terminals. It has helped the terminals to achieve better use of their existing facilities. The current four days of free time on imports appears to be working, and at this time we do not anticipate reducing free time further. Long Beach recently surveyed ocean carriers and cargo interests, and they said they are still getting used to the free-time schedule. As for enforcing the provision, our tariff stipulates that some party has to pay demurrage on containers that are left on the docks beyond the free-time limit. Ocean carriers sometimes extend free time for certain customers. Our tariff stipulates that the marine terminal has to bill someone after free time lapses. In those instances when the ocean carrier grants a customer additional free time, the marine terminal will bill the carrier. The ocean carrier knows there is a cost associated with granting extended free time. The city of Long Beach performs regular audits of the port. The audits verify that demurrage is being collected.
Q. What role have the ports played in establishing PierPass and maintaining it as a viable program?
A. As landlords, the ports participated in the initial meetings of this private-sector initiative and helped to bring the parties together. More than one-third of the port traffic now moves in the off-peak hours. This has helped to reduce congestion on local highways as well as at the marine terminals. PierPass Inc. has a life of its own, but if there is a role for the ports to play in the future, such as to add more gates, the ports are prepared to act as facilitators. The marine terminals are already taking action, with some terminals voluntarily opening their gates on Sundays.
Q. What is the port doing to expand on-dock railyards and increase usage of those facilities?
A. The Port of Long Beach has plans to expand existing on-dock railyards at some of the terminals and storage capacity at the Pier B railyard, but all of the projects are involved in the environmental review process. We are continuing to work through that process so that the projects satisfy all of the environmental requirements. The Green Port Policy and Clean Air Action Plan are clearly moving us in the right direction. When we are able to move forward, some of the existing on-dock railyards will be expanded. The general-user Pier B railyard is woefully inadequate for the length of trains the railroads must build. When that project is approved, we will expand the facility so trains of 7,000 to 8,000 feet in length can be built. Also, the Port of Long Beach is working to eliminate tariff impediments that discourage container movement between port terminals. This will encourage greater use of existing on-dock rail facilities.