The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) found that the coronavirus pandemic has minimally impacted container shipping operations within the Port of New York and New Jersey compared to what was experienced in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in Southern California the first half of this year.
The FMC conducted numerous interviews with New York/New Jersey port and shipping industry officials as part of its ongoing Fact Finding 29, which the agency launched earlier this year to evaluate the impacts of COVID-19 on the nation’s major container gateways.
Led by Commissioner Rebecca Dye, the FMC concluded its first Fact Finding 29 evaluation of the pandemic’s impact on the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in early July. The agency made four recommendations to the ports’ stakeholders to prepare their operations for the return of container traffic once the virus abates.
Specifically, the FMC found that the San Pedro Bay port complex suffered from operational challenges with container returns, terminal closure notifications, blanked sailings and communication of earliest return dates for export containers.
“We believe trade volumes are likely to substantially increase going forward and the southern California ports remain the key gateway for the nation’s international commerce,” Dye said in a statement on Tuesday. “The ports, their terminal tenants, and the ocean carriers that use those facilities must embrace changes that improve efficiencies and operations and act now to implement them.”
However, Dye said a “common challenge” between the West and East Coast port complexes is the need to improve chassis pickups and returns. The truckers seek a scenario in which they can return containers to one location and pick up an outbound container, a process known as a “double move.”
The FMC was advised during its fact-finding discussions with the New York/New Jersey port authority that the Council of Port Performance (CPP) has already made improving the container return process a top priority. The CPP was set up by the port authority in 2014 as a forum for industry stakeholders to provide input and oversight of programs and initiatives to improve efficiency in the port complex.
Dye is expected to soon begin the third phase of Fact Finding 29 by conducting discussions with the Port of New Orleans and its container-shipping stakeholders.