Watch Now

OceanWaves: Los Angeles port boss lays out congestion-fighting plan

Gene Seroka calls for more data sharing and squeezing more productivity out of the system

(Photo: FreightWaves)

This fireside chat recap is from FreightWaves’ OceanWaves Summit.

TOPIC: Port perspective on managing import surge

DETAILS: Ocean carrier arrivals are surging, while the capacity of rail, trucking and warehousing is limited. How can the Port of Los Angeles dig out with a record number of ships waiting at anchor? And how long could this last?

SPEAKERS: Gene Seroka, executive director, Port of Los Angeles, and Greg Miller, senior editor, American Shipper and FreightWaves

BIO: Seroka interacts with a wide range of stakeholders, including port customers around the globe, industry partners, elected and appointed officials at all levels, business leaders, and local residents. He is responsible for managing a budget of more than $1.6 billion budget, advancing major capital projects, growing trade volumes and promoting innovative, sustainable practices that strengthen the region’s economy.


On the wave of inbound vessels: “The twin port of Los Angeles and Long Beach will probably manage about 20 million twenty-foot equivalent units this year, with the next closest port at 7-8 million TEUs, so trying to move our excess cargo to other ports was a fleeting aspiration that really never got traction [when proposed in Q1]. We’ve seen the highest level of output from factories in Asia in recorded history, yet they’re still behind on orders. Year over year, the trans-Pacific trade has seen a 30% increase in vessel capacity, and we still leave containers behind in Asia. It’s not just the three alliances and their carriers. We have no less than 10 new entrants to the trade, and we’ve also seen a handful of major U.S. retailers charter their own vessels.”

On calls for 24/7 port operations: “Thirty percent of all the available truck appointments go unused every day. Yes, we may all aspire to a 24/7 supply chain, but let’s start first where we have the skilled workers on the job and the gates are open and the capacity is there for us to utilize, so we can squeeze out every hour of productivity before we start talking about adding cost to the supply chain and getting into this inflationary discussion if we just try to throw money at this. Let’s take advantage of the capacity we have in front of us today.”

On adding more longshore labor: “We’ve seen the rank-and-file members of the ILWU [labor union] on the job an average of six days per week, every week. There are a little more than 15,000 longshore members, with about 8,000-plus registered with Class A and Class B credentials and 7,000 ‘casuals’ or apprentices. We’ve added about 1,000 longshore members in total — both registered and casual — over the past several months, and there has been an aggressive training program, because we need all the help we can get. The casual workforce has been out [working] in the high 90% range, meaning that all the casuals who are out there are on the job most days. To expand even beyond this is something that both the employers association and the union will continue to evaluate, to bring as many workers to the docks as we possibly can.”

Click for more articles by Greg Miller 


  1. Leslie

    Equipment the answer is equipment.. stop working agains carrier companies and let’s work together to solve this. Someone out there is controllling this madness for their own agenda. Carriers/truckers want to work this is how we generate our money. Someone in the port is ok with collecting hundreds of dollars for storage due to their own regulations.

    1. Kurt

      Too many cargo ships in LA/LGB because the terminals have no space for all the Imports and the Empty containers=>

      Terminals are not unloading cargo fast enough, because the terminals have no space =>

      The terminals have no space, because the truckers miss 30% of their appointments =>

      Truckers miss 30% of appointments because the terminals have no space, so the ocean carriers restrict the empty appointments (BCOs pay the increased detention/per diem) =>

      Empty appointment restrictions tie up the finite chassis pool, causing the imports to also sit in the port longer (BCOs pay the bill in demurrage) =>

      Imports sitting longer causing the terminals to have no space. =>

      Not to mention rail cargo piling up, Port land not developed for terminal operations, full-service gates are not open early 0400 (when truckers want them open), lack of drivers, lack of skilled longshore, etc.……

Comments are closed.

Greg Miller

Greg Miller covers maritime for FreightWaves and American Shipper. After graduating Cornell University, he fled upstate New York's harsh winters for the island of St. Thomas, where he rose to editor-in-chief of the Virgin Islands Business Journal. In the aftermath of Hurricane Marilyn, he moved to New York City, where he served as senior editor of Cruise Industry News. He then spent 15 years at the shipping magazine Fairplay in various senior roles, including managing editor. He currently resides in Manhattan with his wife and two Shih Tzus.