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  August 26th, 2015 | Written by

Task Force Meets to Help Port of Oakland Become More Efficient

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  • A task force met at the Port of Oakland to prioritize efficiency measures and get them launched.
  • Port stakeholders want an end to backlogs, more workers, and extended port hours.
  • A proposal for permanent Saturday operations at the Port of Oakland is under review with the FMC.

Port of Oakland officials received guidance earlier this month in implementing a plan to move cargo more efficiently at their global trade gateway.

A 30-member task force met to prioritize efficiency measures and get them launched. The group of shipping lines, marine terminal operators, cargo owners, harbor truckers and dockworkers want an end to vessel backlogs forcing some ships to temporarily anchor in San Francisco Bay instead of berthing; enough dockworkers, marine clerks, and equipment to efficiently manage high volumes of containerized cargo; and extended hours and an appointment system to help harbor truckers get cargo in and out of Oakland quickly.

The efficiency measures are intended to accelerate cargo movement in Oakland. Task force members said they’re needed because port operations have been inhibited for much of 2015.

“You’re my port,” one cargo owner told Oakland officials. “I want it to work efficiently.”

Port officials said it’s ready to act on the efficiency priorities. “What we needed was the collaborative ideas of our stakeholders,” said Chris Lytle, the port’s executive director. “Now we’ve got them and we’re eager to get going.”

Port officials told the task force that a two-month old labor shortage is already being addressed in Oakland. About 150 dockworkers and 30 marine clerks are joining the workforce over the next two months.

The port is making significant progress in clearing out a backlog of delayed ships that developed during the labor shortage, according to Lytle. Only five vessels were reported at anchor or outside the Golden Gate, down from a high of an earlier high of 13 vessels.

Next on the port’s list of initiatives will be extended terminal hours. A proposal for permanent Saturday operations is under review with the Federal Maritime Commission. The plan would lengthen the work-week to six days in Oakland, easing congestion during peak weekday periods.  The plan would subsidize Saturday operations by charging truckers weekday fees of between $17 and $34 per container.

Port officials said they are finalizing plans with equipment providers to ensure any chassis can be used by any trucker.  By fall, the truck trailers that haul containers over the road will be made available from a common chassis pool.  That should make more equipment available to more drivers. The benefit of such a scheme is that containers won’t be stranded while motor carriers await chassis.

The port is also evaluating the benefits of a California Central Valley equipment depot and is talking to potential operators. The valley’s growers are among the biggest exporters at the Port of Oakland. A depot close to home would enable them to pick up empty containers without driving hours into Oakland.