Container terminals at the Port of New York and New Jersey hope they’re past the worst of truck lines and cargo delays that have plagued the East Coast’s busiest port for the last month.
Cargo backlogs, heavy ship traffic, longshore labor shortages and the July 4 holiday combined to overwhelm marine terminals and make the July 4 holiday week a nightmare for shippers and motor carriers. Trucks waited for hours in two-mile lines outside some terminals.
Traffic was flowing more smoothly Monday, although truckers reported backups at some terminal gates. Traffic appeared to be heaviest at Port Newark Container Terminal.
Maher Terminals, working through last month’s difficult introduction of a new Navis terminal operating system, has extended its gate hours until 7 p.m. from the normal 4 p.m. closing for a fourth consecutive week.
Since Maher ran into problems with the launch of its new system, the terminal has announced the shifting of 15 ship calls to other terminals. Nine ships have been sent to APM Terminals, four to Port Newark Container Terminal, and one each to Global Terminal and New York Container Terminal.
The diversions have eased the strain on Maher but have contributed to delays elsewhere in the port. Adding to the problems were last week’s holiday, longshore labor shortages — a perennial problem during the summer vacation season — and the opening of a new gate system last week at Global.
Truckers have absorbed extra costs, including daily chassis rental, per-diem payments on containers they’ve been unable to return to terminals, and reduced productivity by drivers who have had to wait in line for hours outside terminals.
About 70 percent of port drayage drivers are owner-operators who are paid by the trip. Many of these drivers have been reluctant to accept jobs that would force them to sit in line for hours. Companies that employ drivers are having to absorb costs for unproductive time.
Motor carriers say drayage drivers are hitting their maximum hours of service allowed by new federal regulations, and that customers are squawking about delayed shipments.
“It’s a perfect storm,” said Tom Heimgartner, president of Best Transportation. “We’re losing money, we have disgruntled employees, we have dissatisfied customers, and none of it is due to us. It’s because of the terminals.”