Container terminal officials in the Port of New York and New Jersey said they’re sensitive to port truckers’ problems and are working to eliminate delays and congestion aggravated by volume shifts and seasonal labor shortages at the East Coast’s busiest port.
“We clearly recognize we have an obligation to get it right, and we will get it right,” Jim Pelliccio, president of Port Newark Container Terminal, told members of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers, which represents port drayage operators.
Pelliccio and officials of Global Terminal and New York Container Terminal spoke today at the association’s monthly meeting.
Port truckers have endured a month of frequent delays and long lines at terminals. The problem peaked last week when the normal July 4 holiday rush was aggravated by the diversion of ships from Maher Terminals and by longshore labor shortages, a perennial problem during the summer vacation season.
Gate traffic at terminals was flowing smoothly Tuesday, but truckers are still tallying losses from a month of reduced productivity and from increased per-diem container charges, chassis rentals and other costs. Productivity also has been hit by new federal restrictions on drivers’ hours of service.
Several truckers at the Bi-State meeting said they’re worried the problems could lead to long-term loss of business at New York-New Jersey.
New York-New Jersey’s problems began in early June when Maher Terminals encountered start-up problems with a new terminal operating system. Delays rippled to other terminals as ships were diverted from Maher and truckers scrambled to find chassis and reschedule pickups and deliveries.
Pelliccio said PNCT moved cautiously in accepting diverted ships until it was confident it could handle the volume. “We’re not compromising service for volume,” he said, but noted that delays resulted when the volume shifts coincided with the seasonal shortage of longshore labor. Terminals often have difficulty filling gangs during summer months when workers take vacations.
The new International Longshoremen’s Association local contract encourages early retirements and new hiring, sets productivity standards, and creates a system of relief gangs to replace the current open-ended shifts that keep some workers on the job around the clock. The six-year contract is still in the early stages of implementation.
More immediately, PNCT officials are discussing longer gate hours, Pelliccio said. Meanwhile, the terminal is undergoing a $500 million expansion and upgrade that includes additional on-dock rail facilities, more queueing space for trucks, GPS for yard planning, and the purchase of additional straddle carriers and post-Panamax gantry cranes.
Global Terminal in Bayonne, N.J., also is undergoing a major expansion that includes new gate technology using radio frequency identification and optical character recognition.
John Atkins, chief operating officer of Global parent GCT USA, said the new system is working well for outbound gates. Global unveiled the new inbound gates last week but has temporarily reverted to the old system until bugs can be worked out. “We will turn it back on when we know it is 100 percent,” probably within a few days, Atkins said.
Global’s sister terminal, NYCT, hasn’t had a problem with congestion. Its business has withered since the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey raised tolls on bridges that truckers must cross to reach the Staten Island, N.Y., terminal. NYCT recently pushed its 6 a.m. gate opening back to 8 a.m., but is opening its gates at 7 a.m. this week.