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Viewpoint: Trade stakeholders continue to pass the accountability buck

The Port of Oakland had its best September ever for import volumes last month. (Photo: Port of Oakland)

“Not it!” It seems some in maritime and logistics are still playing a game of tag. 

We all know the flow of trade is a series of pipes that all depend on each other so trade can flow efficiently. Now the pipes are clogged and corroded, and it turns out the “pipes” within this trade system are blaming the others for the corrosive contagion.

There is one reason behind this trade snarl. One. Can you guess? Bet you can’t unless you are an importer.


It’s the lack of willingness among some participants in trade to accept any type of blame. They blame the other stakeholders. As children, we were taught our actions had consequences —  good or bad. How has this life lesson been thrown out the window?

The finger-pointing in the supply chain is nothing new. In fact, it has gotten even hotter with the transparency of the CNBC Supply Chain Heat Map, powered by the analysis and data from 12 firms. Importers are rejoicing: true data transparency. Yet in this world of free speech, those companies within the pipes of trade are mad that questions about their service are being raised on social media..

On my LinkedIn feed, a logistics industry participant was voicing his frustration with the Oakland SSA Terminal’s performance. It’s his right to complain. So what happens? SSA emails him demanding to know what he was going to send me, which he forwarded on to me. 

Really? It’s his right to speak his mind on a news story.

As a journalist, I never take anyone’s word. I want facts. I’m a data geek. No matter the comment by a LinkedIn follower, the CNBC Supply Chain Heat Map shows that the dwell time for imports and exports out of Oakland is up. The LinkedIn commenter was not inaccurate with his experience.

CNBC Supply Chain Heat Map using project44 dwell time data

“I just want to know when is the terminal going to make the cargo available?” asked Peter Schneider, president of T.G.S. Logistics Inc. “When is a container really available? The BCO can track their cargo in another country, we can track the container on the vessel, but once that container arrives in port it goes in a black hole. All importers large and small need to get an equal shot of getting their containers swiftly. It’s really the BCO that is paying for everything.”

American Shipper reviewed the emails between Schneider and SSA, and his comments on the amount of dwell time he was going to face were literally verbatim from the SSA representative’s email. American Shipper did reach out to SSA for comment. At the time of the publication, a response was not given.

So what are logistics executives like Schneider doing at this time? Waiting.

According to SONAR, the transit times from China to Oakland resemble more of a hike up a mountain.

Ocean TEU transit times all ports to Oakland.
To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.

With ocean carriers skipping or omitting the Port of Oakland from their schedules, it is no surprise booking volumes are down.

Ocean container booking volumes all ports to Oakland.
To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.
Ocean container departure volumes all ports to Oakland.
To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.

So if vessels are not arriving as much as they once did at the Port of Oakland, why are dwell times up for imports? There’s a multitude of reasons — importers using their free time holding products they no longer can sell because they came late, warehouse capacity, trucking, chassis availability, container restrictions, etc.

There are more reasons but why belabor the points that have been made since this pandemic congestion started? We all know the problems. So what needs to get done? Accountability. Stop pointing the finger. Someone is going to lose an eye.

The CNBC Supply Chain Heat Map data providers are global freight booking platform Freightos, creator of the Freightos Baltic Dry Index; logistics provider OL USA; supply chain intelligence platform FreightWaves; supply chain platform Blume Global; third-party logistics provider Orient Star Group; marine analytics firm MarineTraffic; maritime visibility data company project44; maritime transport data company MDS Transmodal UK; ocean and airfreight benchmarking analytics firm Xeneta; research and analysis firm Sea-Intelligence ApS; Crane Worldwide Logistics; and air and freight logistics provider SEKO Logistics.

Lori Ann LaRocco

Lori Ann LaRocco is senior editor of guests for CNBC business news. She coordinates high profile interviews and special multi-million dollar on-location productions for all shows on the network. Her specialty is in politics, working with titans of industry. LaRocco is the author of: “Trade War: Containers Don’t Lie, Navigating the Bluster” (Marine Money Inc., 2019) “Dynasties of the Sea: The Untold Stories of the Postwar Shipping Pioneers” (Marine Money Inc., 2018), “Opportunity Knocking” (Agate Publishing, 2014), “Dynasties of the Sea: The Ships and Entrepreneurs Who Ushered in the Era of Free Trade” (Marine Money, 2012), and “Thriving in the New Economy: Lessons from Today’s Top Business Minds” (Wiley, 2010).