NEWPORT, R.I. — Working groups in a New York-New Jersey port performance task force are scheduled to report initial recommendations next week, providing a foundation for the task force’s scheduled recommendations in June.
John Nardi, president of the New York Shipping Association, and Dennis Lombardi, deputy director of the port authority’s seaport division, said they’re optimistic the task force will identify ways to help the port handle future cargo surges and operational challenges.
“There are a lot of good ideas,” Lombardi said. He and Nardi spoke during separate panel discussions at the annual Newport, R.I., trade and transportation conference of CONECT, the Coalition of New England Companies for Trade.
Nardi is co-chairman of the task force with Rick Larrabee, director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s port commerce division. Lombardi is facilitator for the task force’s terminal operations working group.
The 21-member task force will receive reports from working groups on terminals, chassis, drayage, rail, and communications. The working groups have representatives from more than 40 companies in 11 industry sectors.
The groups are working to develop ways to make port operations go more smoothly, to help the port handle cargo surges from larger ships, and to make the port more resilient to problems such as last winter’s bitter cold, which slowed operations and delayed shipments.
Lombardi said port customers have demanded a seasonal plan to avoid a repeat of the recent winter, which he said was “a complete disaster.”
The task force’s efforts are across-the-board, and include discussion of port-wide “gray” chassis pools, trucker appointment or reservation systems, and metrics to identify what’s working and what needs fixing.
One idea being discussed, Lombardi said, is using metrics to provide a “trigger” for relief of demurrage and per-diem charges during extraordinary events. Many truckers and cargo owners have complained about bills for containers they’re unable to pick up or deliver from congested terminals.
Nardi said labor shortages that slowed operations during recent months were a symptom of underlying problems with last summer’s computer problems at Maher Terminals and winter blizzards that hobbled terminals ‘ productivity in January and February.
Ice, snow and bitter cold halved terminals’ productivity measured in container moves per man-hour, “and we just didn’t have the labor capacity to make up that difference,” Nardi said.
He said he’s confident the port will have an adequate supply of longshore labor in the months ahead.
Although the NYSA and International Longshoremen’s Association are in litigation with the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor over hiring procedures, 150 new workers have been brough in since February and additional workers are being added at the rate of 20 to 30 a week.
About half of the 300 International Longshoremen’s Association members scheduled to retire April 1 have agreed to delay their exits from the workforce and will not be allowed to take vacations during summer months, Nardi said.
““The process is moving forward, so theres no need to be concerned that because of our issue with the Waterfront Commission, there’s going to be a labor shortage,” Nardi said.
“It’s been a rough year, but there are a lot of things happening, and we’re going to see a significant improvement going forward,” he said.