UPDATE: California Port Cargo is Moving'sort Of
Long Beach, Los Angeles report improved operations, while Oakland remains inert
LOS ANGELES - 05/03/04 - Last week's work stoppage by California truckers moving cargo in and out of the state's ports continued over the weekend, but appears to be losing momentum, at least in Southern California.
According to industry sources, cargo is moving "smoothly" in and out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach after a "wildcat" work action to slow or even disrupt cargo movement began last Wednesday by about 600 independent truckers protesting the rising cost of diesel fuel.
"Monday is usually the busiest day of the week for us," said Art Wong, spokesman for the Port of Long Beach. "But it actually looks like the number of containers moving this morning as actually greater than usual. It appears that all terminals here are operating."
The work slowdown had the potential of crippling the port, which is the second most active in the US and, if partnered with the neighboring Port of Los Angeles, would form the second largest container "load center" in the world after Hong Kong and Singapore.
Cargo moving through the 3,000-acre Port of Long Beach in 2003 was valued at $96 billion with 4.7 million containers moving through its terminals.??
Representatives for the Port of Los Angeles were unavailable for comment, but, said one informed source, trucks are moving in and out of the port's container facilities "normally and without incident."
The situation at the Port of Oakland in Northern California is a different story, however.
This morning, the Port of Oakland reported a continued slowdown at its container terminals with "very little activity" reported at the facilities operated by American President Lines, Stevedoring Services of America (SSA), the Trans Pacific Container Service Corp. (TRAPAC), Maersk Sealand, Transbay, and Hanjin Shipping.
Oakland - the fourth busiest container port in the US - handled a record 1.92 million containers last year, a 13% increase over the volume that passed through the port's 10 active container yards and two near-dock rail facilities in 2002. The port is served by 32 ocean carriers.
Last Friday, at the height of the work slowdown, the Oakland experienced an 85% to 90% drop in normal business with some 100 truckers picketing at and blocking container terminal entrance and exit lanes.
The Union Pacific Railroad - the major railroad handling intermodal cargo moving in and out of California - issued an embargo on containers entering and leaving its California facilities at 12:01 am today, but rescinded the embargo about 10 hours later as conditions improved and cargo flow returned to near-normal.
The railroad operates about 4,000 miles of track in California and maintains intermodal terminals in Oakland, Stockton, Long Beach, and Los Angeles. Other terminal operations are located in Roseville, Stockton, East Los Angeles, West Colton, and Yermo.
The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway - the other major rail carrier serving the California cargo market - experienced "minimal impact" from the work slowdown, according to spokeswoman Lena Kent. "Cargo volume diminished a little last Friday, but everything seems to be back to normal."
The BNSF operates the Hobart Intermodal Yard, about 23 miles north of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, near downtown?Los Angeles.
The "wildcat" work action has no centralized organization and was planned "to bring attention" to the rising cost of diesel fuel which has risen in the past few weeks to as high as $2.50 a gallon in California - as much as 56 cents a gallon higher than the national average.
According to leaflets and CB radio chatter last week, the truckers were motivated to protest the fact that while some steamship lines and terminal operators do pay a surcharge to offset the increasing cost of diesel fuel, others don't.
California's high diesel prices are attributed, at least in part, to a special formulation for the fuel mandated by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which claims that the modified fuel lessons air pollution.
Trucks based in California often leave the state to travel to Nevada and Arizona to fill their tanks, while others that don't are forced to pay the state's higher fuel prices, according to the California Trucking Association (CTA) in Sacramento.
The industry organization said that of the estimated 1.8 million big rigs on the road in California, only 50,000 are actually based in the state mainly because of fuel prices and the prohibitively high costs of doing business.
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