Traffic congestion around the Port of Houston is threatening to choke infrastructure investment there even as export and upstream opportunities pique energy-industry interest in growth on the coast. In 2010, there were about 10,000 trucks per day on the road system serving the port. By 2015, that number more than doubled to about 25,000 or 30,000 trucks each day on the same, unexpanded roads, said Chad Burke, President and CEO of the Economic Alliance Houston Port Region.
Now that number is set to double again in the next couple of years as more projects enter service in the port, and population growth is driving up commuter traffic on top of that, Burke said, speaking at the Houston Business Journal’s October 18 Energy Infrastructure Power Breakfast. This level of congestion raises the cost for companies to move products in and out of the port.
Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce, on Friday, October 14 at the University of Southern California signed an agreement with the school’s Marshall Center for Global Supply Chain Management. The partnership with the University of Southern California will explore ways the ports can adopt a standardized information system that could allow various players from retailers to truckers to big shipping companies to share data. “Never have we had a port community system with digitized technology,” said Gene Seroka, Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles. “This is really ground-breaking.” Nearly 40 percent of imported goods to the United States come through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, but information about how quickly products will arrive and be distributed is complicated by a web of different software systems that don’t talk to each other.
Easier access to data could help ease congestion by alerting everyone when equipment is down or in short supply. Seroka said he would like to be able to know weeks instead of days before a container ship arrives at port, so planning for its arrival is smoother. Now it poses headaches at the ports where nearly every terminal operator works off of a different data system. In Long Beach and Los Angeles, there are 14 terminals and 11 different operating systems, complicating matters for truckers and others who need to access information about their cargo.
“The idea is to digitize the transmission of information so supply chain partners can plan and make decisions in a more reliable, safe manner,” said Noel Hacegaba, Chief Operation Officer at the Port of Long Beach.
The arrival of mega-ships is having a profound effect on port operations at all major US gateways, but the biggest impact by far in terms of congestion is being felt in Los Angeles-Long Beach. The more than decade-long comprehensive effort mounted by terminal operators in Los Angeles-Long Beach to efficiently work the largest mega-ships shows other US ports have their work cut out for them, a Los Angeles port terminal operator said on Monday, October 17.