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Port Report: APM Terminals working ‘very hard’ to relieve coast-to-coast U.S. backlogs

Eleonora Maersk at APM Terminals in Los Angeles ( Photo: Maersk )

Terminals operator adding equipment, labor and hours to relieve strains on truck drivers at ports; U.K. plans to rule the waves with 2050 plan.

APM Terminals looking to ease turn times

Maersk’s (Nasdaq OMX: MAER.B) APM Terminals unit says it is working to relieve the high backlog of containers that are at its two largest marine terminals in North America. The news comes as shipping lines continue to warn customers and drayage drivers to expect delays when entering terminals in Los Angeles and New Jersey. France’s CMA CGM warned this week that “ports in Southern California have been inundated by high volumes, causing congestion, limited storage space, equipment shortages, and slower container movements.” STG Logistics has also warned about an “unprecedented uptick in import volumes into the port of NY/NJ.”

As one of the biggest tenants at both ports, APM Terminals has been severely affected by the congestion, which has been brought on by pre-tariff front loading by shippers. “The challenge has been handling all that extra volume at once,” said APM spokesman Tom Boyd. “It’s been busy ever since Thanksgiving.” The New Jersey terminal is also being hit by ships missing their berth windows due to North Atlantic weather.

Utilization on both coasts has been at 90 percent, which is above the 75 percent utilization that is more typical. “So that’s really packed and its harder to get at boxes and traffic flows are impacted,” Boyd added. APM plans to add more top loaders to its New Jersey terminal so containers can be placed on trucks more quickly.

APM says it plans to extend open hours at its New Jersey terminal this Saturday to 1300 hours from 1000 hours. “Where we feel there’s demand, we’ll do it,” Boyd said. But the delays are also being compounded by a shortage of Customs and Border Protection officers who are working without pay due to the government shutdown. “We are in perfect storm right now,” Boyd said. “We are working very hard to get the truckers out faster because the drivers are facing longer turn times than they are used to.”

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 U.K. looks to revive maritime innovation

“Rule Britannia! Rule the waves,” goes the 18th century British patriotic anthem. Now at a time of widespread Brexit dismay, the country appears to be leaning on its storied maritime past for a shot of confidence, according to FreightWaves’ Nick Savvides. The country’s transport ministry outlined a plan called Maritime 2050 which outlines the U.K.’s plan to remain “a world leader in the maritime industry for the next 30 years.” The plan basically looks for U.K. companies to take the lead in developing and marketing new technology for the maritime industry. Yet much of the innovation appears to taking place across the North Sea in Scandinavia where companies like Norway’s Kongsberg appear to be taking the lead in developing things like autonomous ships, lapping the U.K. manufacturers such as Rolls-Royce Marine.

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Michael Angell, Bulk and Intermodal Editor

Michael Angell covers maritime, intermodal and related topics for FreightWaves. His interest in transportation stretches back several generations. One great-grandfather was a dray horseman along the New York waterfront and another was a railway engineer in Texas. More recently, Michael has written about the shipping industry for TradeWinds, energy markets for Oil Price Information Service, and general business topics for FactSet Mergerstat and Investor's Business Daily. When he is not stuck in the office, he enjoys tours of ports, terminals, and railyards.

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