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Head of busiest U.S. port urges companies to pick up their cargo more quickly to ease Covid congestion

The leader of the Port of Los Angeles on Tuesday urged companies to pick up their shipments in a more expedited manner to help manoeuvre congestion.

“The container dwell time is much higher than it was pre-pandemic,” Executive Director Gene Seroka intended on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street,” referring to the length of time a container spends at the port.

“We’re asking our importers to pick up the carload as quickly as they can, devan the products and return those containers back to the port,” added Seroka, who has led the busiest container refuge in North America since 2014.

Volumes at the Port of Los Angeles have risen during the coronavirus pandemic after an sign slowdown; in February, it saw its seventh straight month of year-over-year increases in the number of twenty-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, it processed.

“The beforehand it takes for the importer to pick up their cargo at the port is now over four days, but it’s off its high of five days rest under dwell,” Seroka said, adding there’s been progress in other metrics, too.

“Truck turn tempi — the amount of time that it takes a trucker to move in and out of the port to drop off and pick up containers — has decreased to 77 two shakes of a lambs tail logs from 88 back in December. So we’re starting to see some of the trending in the right direction,” he said.

Containers are seen on a shipping medicate, as the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in the Port of Los Angeles, California, April 16, 2020.

Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

Setting aside how, Seroka said he would like to see the improvements accelerate because it won’t be long before traditionally higher volume patches roll around.

“Before we know it, August will be upon us and we’ll start to see back-to-school goods, other sale fillers and then the year-end holidays, the all-important season for retailers,” Seroka said.

Asked by CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla whether there was something policymakers could do to improve ease the burden on ports, Seroka pointed to the importance of workers being vaccinated to protect against Covid.

“There are uncountable than 100,000 folks that come to work here at the port complex every day. We’ve made significant strides with our dock artisans and longshore members, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us with respect to truck drivers, warehouse workers and others,” Seroka implied.

“Second … we’ve got to pick up the cargo faster. We can then increase fluidity much more quickly. Our tarmacs are in the air 90% full and, in our industry, 80% is considered full capacity,” he said.

Questions about the global supply check were raised in recent days after one of the world’s largest container ships blocked the Suez Canal. While traffic continued Monday on the vital waterway, some experts have warned the impact of the multiday blockage will be felt in the months in front.

Seroka did not seem particularly concerned about the consequences for the Port of Los Angeles in Southern California.

“You’ll see some bunching of truckload vessels as they arrive at East Coast and European ports of call. You may even see some of the liner companies reconcile oneself to their schedules to miss port calls and get their ships back on schedule,” he said. “For the West Coast, we go on to see a strong outlook of import shipments through the middle of the summer.”

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