Beneficial cargo owners are not reporting too much disruption associated with the new ocean carrier alliance structure but West Coast port operators are beginning to see disturbances that could soon change this perception. The different vessel rotations are causing chassis imbalances among the West Coast terminals and also congestion.
The East Coast has not experienced issues related to the alliances because of the longer transit times. Vessels are arriving next week so terminals are preparing for the bigger vessels and the operational challenges that will come about.
There are also issues at origin; Shanghai, Qingdao, and Ningbo are all reporting congestion issues due in part to weather but also caused by the new alliance schedules. It is reported that China’s top 10 ports had a 6 percent increase in container exports in the first quarter of the year. As volumes surge it is expected that congestion at both origin and destination could worsen.
The new alliance structure became effective April 1, 2017 and nearly every ocean carrier was involved in the transitions. A spokesperson for West Coast ports stated that they expect the issues that have come up to be resolved in the next several weeks but the alliances actually did phase into the new vessel sharing operations so the full effect is still yet to come.
Terminals will be affected in different ways as certain terminals may gain or lose vessels or have to accommodate larger vessels than usual. Los Angeles-Long Beach is experiencing the most challenges as they are dealing with the new structure in rail services and also undergoing a bridge construction project near Terminal Island. Rail departures are getting delayed because of the carriers calling different terminals than prior to the alliance reconfiguration.