Port drivers boycott Miami terminal to protest delays

Port drivers boycott Miami terminal to protest delays

The Port of Miami is one of a handful on the US East Coast with a draft of 50 feet. Photo credit: Shutterstock

South Florida drayage companies say their drivers are boycotting a Port Miami container terminal to protest slow turn times that have stuck truckers and beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) with costly penalties.

The boycott of Port of Miami Terminal Operating Co. (POMTOC) began late last week by independent owner-operators who said they were fed up with delays that in recent months have stretched as long as several hours.

“Right now there are no delays because nobody is going in. That’s it in a nutshell,” said Pepe Alvarez, dispatcher at First Coast Logistics’ Miami office. He and dispatchers at other drayage companies said it was unclear how long the boycott would last.

Drayage operators said that although several terminals at Miami and Port Everglades have had delays of varying severity and duration in recent months, drivers apparently targeted POMTOC because turn times had been longest there.

Alvarez said turn times of three hours had been common, and in extreme cases have been as long as eight hours, which makes it impossible for drivers to complete more than one trip in a day. He said that for some moves, his company must pull a container out of the port, store it overnight, and deliver it to the customer the next day. “That means we have to take two days for a single move,” he said.

Gabriel Torres, supervisor at Miami-based Viking Transport Services, said his company’s drivers have had to wait as long as three to four hours to pick up a container, and as long as two to three hours to exit POMTOC. He said Viking started the year with 38 drivers and is down to about 18 as many have left port drayage to take long-haul work.

The cause of the recent delays is unclear. POMTOC officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Miami has endured periodic flare ups of congestion in recent years. The port had a backlog of cargo after Hurricane Irma in early September, and like other US container gateways has been coping with off-schedule arrivals of larger ships.

“Their excuse is that they have an overflow of containers and the storms,” Torres said. “But we don’t have hurricane season all year round, and those vessels don’t bring in 2,000 containers every time they come in. Sometimes they bring in 200 or 300.”

Trucking dispatchers told JOC.com that turn times for dual moves involving pickups and deliveries have been shorter at Port Miami’s other multiuser terminal, South Florida Container Terminal, and are in the 25-to-30-minute range at Seaboard Marine’s proprietary terminal in Miami. Truckers say intermittent delays flared up recently at Florida International Terminal at nearby Port Everglades have subsided in recent days.

The Miami delays are generating demurrage charges for late pickup of cargo and detention charges for late return of equipment. The US Federal Maritime Commission plans to hold hearings on Jan. 16 to 17 on a shipper-led coalition’s complaint about the imposition of congestion-related fees resulting from high volume, weather, labor, or other issues beyond a BCO or trucker’s control.

Motor carriers often must pay demurrage in order to get a container released by the terminal, and then seek reimbursement from the BCO, which may balk at paying. “This month alone, I think I rang up about $10,000 in demurrage charges,” Alvarez said.

Don Hardy, vice president at third-party logistics provider Worldwide Logistics, said that in addition to demurrage costs, importers face penalties for failing to meet tight delivery schedules of big-box retailers.

“I have a client that has four urgent containers, and if they don’t get their containers on time, they’re going to get hit with penalties from the retailers,” Hardy said. “Everybody’s paying all this extra money for the worst service. It’s a real mess down there.”

Contact Joseph Bonney at joseph.bonney@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @JosephBonney.