With peak season volumes expected to increase, the ports of Seattle and Tacoma said they are willing to help pay terminal operators to extend gate hours at container terminals.
The ports of Seattle and Tacoma, now operating as a quasi-joint venture, will spend up to $2 million to reimburse terminal operators for extending gate hours at container terminals during the upcoming peak season.
The incentive program, which will run 12 weeks beginning Aug. 22, is designed to head-off potential congestion problems of the kind that have plagued several ports in recent years.
Port authorities have worked with maritime stakeholders to modernize cargo handling processes, deploy technology, reconfigure infrastructure and add resources to keep truck and rail traffic flowing in and out of their facilities.
Extending gate hours is one tactic some ports have adopted. Beneficial cargo owners collectively project shipping 3 percent to 5 percent more volumes through the two Pacific Northwest ports and giving truckers the flexibility to spread out deliveries is expected to minimize traffic streets surrounding the port and keep cargo flowing efficiently.
After learning about the projections for greater volume “we said let’s not wait until there’s a problem” before taking action, spokeswoman Tara Mattina said.
Truck gates currently open at 8 a.m.. The incentive program will reimburse terminal operators for opening an hour earlier and keeping gates open during the normal lunch break on weekdays, the Northwest Seaport Alliance said. It will also provide a one off-shift gate per week, defined as after 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or a weekend shift.
Shippers hailed the decision as business friendly. “We applaud the Northwest Seaport Alliance efforts in working on turn times and congestion to keep both the seaport and the shippers in the Northwest viable,” Laura Daniels, ocean shipping coordinator for Anderson Hay & Grain Co., said in a statement issued by the ports. “We depend on delivering full containers and picking up an empty with a maximum turn time at the terminals of one hour. This allows our trucks to return to our plant with an empty, which will be used for production that afternoon,” Mary Anne Levine, global logistics and customer relations for Calaway Trading, said. “Longer gate hours would help, as well as alternating labor to work through breaks and lunch time.” In addition, Richard Perket, senior director of global logistics for Christopher & Banks Corp., said late gates will help get goods to stores in time for the retailer’s advertised promotions.