THE VIEW FROM BELOW

On a recent tour of SSA’s terminal in Oakland, we were able to see first-hand two cranes that were raised by 27′.  A third is currently under construction, while the fourth awaits its turn.

These cranes will be able to reach containers on the top tier of the new mega-ships. These ships are currently on rotation in the TransPacific trade, and these cranes will make the Port of Oakland one of the few ports in the US able to accommodate these large ships.

ROUNDHOUSE EMPTY YARD CLOSES

SSA’s terminal in Oakland had an off-site location to return and pick up empty containers, the Roundhouse. The purpose of the Roundhouse was to improve turn times and cargo flows.  After nearly a year and a half of operations, SSA has decided to close the Roundhouse citing the implementation of additional equipment and labor at their main terminal.

GROWN UP IN OAKLAND

We have mentioned in past newsletters that SSA’s terminal in Oakland is raising four cranes by 27′ to accommodate the new, larger mega ships, but seeing it first hand was really impressive.

Pictured in the foreground is the newly raised crane. Pictured to the right in yellow is the jack used to hold and raise it. Pictured in the background is a pre-raised crane. Trust us, it is not the distance making it look stubby. It is diminutive in comparison.

Thanks for the tour SSA!

NIGHT GATES NOT A PASSING FAD

ssa-at-nightWe are pleased to report SSA’s night gates in Oakland will continue for the foreseeable future and will continue at the same cost of $30/loaded container.  Woo-Hoo!

As a recap, in order to accommodate the additional volumes that migrated to SSA after the closure of Ports America in Oakland earlier this year, SSA initiated night gates beginning June 27, 2016.  The extended hours run Monday through Thursday, 6:00pm to 3:00am.  The cost is $30/loaded regardless of the time of day of the container is moved.  The fee is paid directly to SSA by the cargo owner.  If you have any questions about the payment of this fee, please contact SSA: OICTGateFee@SSAMarine.com

We applaud SSA for taking this action.  Not only was there a need for extended hours but they also launched a program at a lower price point and with much greater transparency than the ports to the south of us.  Just sayin’.

WHO MOVED MY CHEESE?

Night Operation SSAHave you folks read the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” If not, you should pick it up.  It is a quick read about dealing with change, and if there is one thing we can say about operations in Oakland these days is there is a ton of change.

 

APPOINTMENTS:  First, we have the appointment system which became mandatory last month for loaded import transactions at SSA’s terminal in Oakland. We have never been pro-appointment as we felt it handcuffed our operations and limited our ability to ebb and flow with the dynamics of our business, however, after weeks of “closed areas of the yard,” we are willing to give it a try.  

 

The appointment system launched, as new processes often do, with a rocky start. Midnight start times, narrow appointment windows and shortage of appointments were some of the challenges we faced.  SSA has been open to suggestions and has made some modifications to the system.  We continue to tweak our operations and processes to maximize driver productivity and the use of the appointment system.  It is definitely a work in progress for everyone.

 

NIGHT GATES:  Just this week, we have a new night gate at SSA. Effective Monday June 27, 2016, SSA began night operations Monday-Thursday from 6:00pm to 3:00am.  They are assessing a $30 per container fee for all loaded transactions both day and night in order to pay for the extended hours. This fee is paid to SSA. We encourage all cargo owners to establish an account with SSA to ensure the smooth transit of your cargo.  You may email SSA for more information at  OICTGateFee@ssamarine.com. Also, watch for information from SSA regarding an eModal billing option.  

 

As with the appointment system, the night gates are a work in progress as all parties (motor carriers, drivers, terminal operator, labor, cargo owners, warehouses/facilities) adjust to the extended hours.  It is going to take time for everyone in the supply chain to modify their operations to accommodate night gates. 

 

Change is difficult, but we are going to work through it together.  We appreciate your patience, support and flexibility as we develop a new norm.

IS BEING FIRST ALWAYS BEST?

West Coast Dockworkers Hold Day-Long Work Stoppage To Protest Iraq WarSSA’s terminal in Oakland was shut down this past Monday due to a difference in contract interpretation.  SSA and ILWU Local 10 have had a long standing agreement for the crane operators to show up 20 minutes before the start of the shift (for which they are paid one hour) to perform the necessary safety checks on equipment. This early start enables the cranes to be up and running when the rest of the longshoremen and the drivers show up and all can hit the ground running.  

 

The ILWU argues this early start is not part of the current contract nor was it discussed with the union.  Instead of arriving 20 minutes early on Monday, the crane operators arrived at the traditional start time. In response, SSA sent them home, which resulted in the ire of all the longshoremen who walked off in sympathy, thereby, shutting down the terminal for the day.

 

The net result is this issue will be the first dispute to be reviewed and decided upon by the three-person arbitration panel put in place during last year’s ILWU/PMA contract negotiation.  A decision on the issue/ interpretation is due early next week.

Driver Dissatisfaction Continues in Oakland

Driver Protest Port of Oakland 11 27 2013 002We were calling it “Our Summer of Discontent,” but we are fast approaching winter and the discontent hasn’t let up.  The issues with terminal mergers and the resulting upheaval have created roadblocks we continue to struggle through today.  Drivers are wary of the delays and inconsistent service.  Their nerves are frayed, their frustration grows and many are fed up and choosing to leave the industry.

To add fuel to the already raging fire, there continues to be on-going driver protests.  There have been three staged blockades at the Port of Oakland since August with the latest being the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Friday after, November 27th and 29th.  The protests have been organized by the Port of Oakland Trucker Association (POTA), which is a group of independent contractors serving the port.  They continue to fight for a delay to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) impending truck retirement deadline as well as pressure the port to pay a $50/container Green Truck Fee and a $50/hour Congestion Fee.  Neither of which will happen.

The port has been working with motor carriers and cargo owners to encourage pay advancements to drivers in order to help defray the costs of the newer, more expensive equipment.  They are not, however, going to let the protests stop commerce.  The port has filed an injunction against the protesters and has been closely coordinating with the City of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department to keep the gates clear and open.  The sticky wicket to productivity on these protest days is to what extent the ILWU will honor their picket lines. Despite an arbitrator ruling there is no health and safety concerns as a result of the demonstrations, ILWU, and therefore productivity, is nevertheless hampered.

For information on POTA’s demands, click here.

For the port and city’s response, click here.

“I quit! I can’t deal with it anymore!”

“I quit!  I can’t deal with it anymore!” are the words we heard this past Friday from a driver who could not face one more day at the marine terminals in Oakland.  The lines, the disrespect, the lack of productivity and income all contributed to his decision.  It’s becoming something motor carriers are hearing far too frequently.

We, the industry collectively, cannot continue to sit idly by and bang our heads against the same wall.  We cannot continue to allow the drivers to shoulder the burden of an inelastic and inefficient system.  The continual downward rate spiral in the TransPacific trade has put pressure on the ocean carriers to cut costs.  Ocean carriers look to their terminal operators to reduce pricing.  Terminal operators now no longer have the flexibility to operate on holidays/extended hours, purchase equipment, invest in technology, or order additional labor.  The network is stretched, and there is no elasticity left to ebb and flow with the business.  When it breaks, waves are sent through the supply chain…vessels back up, containers stack up and drivers line up.  And, right now, it’s broken.  It’s going to take everyone’s involvement to fix the problem.

Improvement in terminal turn times is necessary to stop the exodus of  drivers from intermodal trucking.  We are hearing reports of congestion surcharges being implemented. While it’s not a solution, it gives drivers some compensation for their time and lack of income.  Over the summer, we implemented such a surcharge and rescinded it when we saw a glimmer of improvement.  Operations have returned to static levels, and we are again considering such an action.