400 New Dockworkers Hired to Handle Oakland Cargo Backlog - Global Trade Magazine
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  July 16th, 2015 | Written by

400 New Dockworkers Hired to Handle Oakland Cargo Backlog

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  • Oakland port exec: “We’re not operating with the speed and efficiency our customers deserve right now.”
  • Oakland's waterfront employers and the longshore union agreed to beef up Oakland’s labor pool.
  • The port of Oakland's problems have been caused by increases in container volumes.

The first of 400 new dockworkers arrived at Port of Oakland terminals last week to meet the port’s need for more labor.

Additional personnel will be phased into the workforce through September, the port said, to handle a backlog of ships and cargo. The port’s aim is to accelerate cargo operations and clear out the backup of vessels anchored in San Francisco Bay.

“We’re not operating with the speed and efficiency our customers deserve right now,” said Port of Oakland maritime director John Driscoll. “Additional longshore labor is an important first step in getting back on track.”

The port’s waterfront employers and the longshore union agreed last month to beef up Oakland’s labor pool. In addition to adding new workers, they agreed to train and promote 100 current workers.

Meanwhile, the G6 Alliance—comprising APL, HMM, MOL, Hapag-Lloyd, NYK and OOCL—canceled four upcoming vessel calls to the port this month citing the delays. The four vessels are operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. and APL, a subsidiary of Neptune Orient Lines.

As Driscoll explains it, the port’s problems have come about because containerized cargo volume in the has increased for three straight months. “The number of vessels arriving in Oakland has grown, too, with the port often berthing 10 ships a day,” he said. “Some ships are anchored in the bay two days waiting for terminals to clear vessels from berths. More auto carrier vessels and cruise ships are calling at Bay Area ports putting further strain on the longshore labor pool.”

The labor shortage has lengthened the time ships spend loading and unloading by as much as a day, according to Driscoll. He added that cargo and vessel delays should ease by the end of July and that the port is in discussions with waterfront labor and management on measures to accelerate cargo operations.

Detractors note that the 400 new hires are being phased in over a period of months and that they will take months before they are fully trained.

The port is caught in the middle of the problem as it doesn’t hire longshore labor. Hiring is managed by marine terminal operators who lease their facilities from the port.