June 17, 2023

Despite labor agreement, some West Coast-bound ships still delayed


The labor strife seen at the West Coast ports has impacted different pipelines of trade within the logistics system over the last two weeks. Details on vessel transits and delays became a special report for MarineExchange in which the terminal agents cited either “labor” or “domino effect” as reasons for delays. 

We saw vessels stranded at berth because of the lack of lashers and other key labor positions, which halted the vessels from leaving and prohibited new vessels from entering and unloading.  

While a tentative agreement was reached between the Pacific Maritime Association and the  International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the impact is still being felt.

Read more: West Coast port labor deal reached; peak season chaos averted

Vessel ETA is a leading indicator for logistics managers and for shippers to see if their precious product is going to arrive in port on time. If not, the delay clock starts ticking.

On Tuesday,, the vessels NYK Demeter, Ever Linking and Wan Hai 353 pulled back on throttle to slow down. There were no weather issues, per analysis by MarineTraffic.

“The general Asia Pacific to [U.S. West Coast] vessel transit times are between 10-14 days,” explained Capt. Adil Ashiq, head of North America for MarineTraffic. “This means vessels maintain a steady speed known as ‘sea speed’ which, for container vessels on tight schedules, averages at around 18-plus knots.

“If a vessel calculates that its [estimated time of arrival (ETA)] is earlier than its scheduled ETA, then the best rule of thumb is to simply pull back the throttle and slow down until further direction is provided to the captain.”

The NYK Demeter, which traversed the Panama Canal, is bound for the Port of Los Angeles, sailing at 12.9 knots. Ashiq said that is purposely slow and the ship is most likely to arrive “just in time” at 3 p.m. this coming Tuesday and berth at Yusen Terminal. This vessel is prioritized over ONE Continuity, which is headed for the same berth. For several days in its early journey, the Demeter dropped speed around Japan due to wind, but after a brief throttle-up, it adjusted down to 14.2 knots. Ashiq told American Shipper the Yusen Terminal is still showing two vessels being serviced.

“Their speeds are on purpose,” he said. “The two current vessels are at port for one and two days, respectively. The ONE Arcadia came in on [Wednesday] and the ONE Orpheus came in Thursday.”

The journey for ONE Continuity is now showing a 19-day journey, Ashiq said. The NYK Demeter’s ETA was changed from next Tuesday to Wednesday.

Ashiq says the growing concept of “just-in-time” shipping has taken a foothold where vessels will arrive at the proper time in order to make their direct arrival window to the berth. But if other factors delay berth availability, then a vessel has no choice but to slow down or loiter offshore waiting until told to come inbound. 

“There are times where vessels who arrive early and decide to anchorage may incur anchorage fees imposed by the local port authority,” Ashiq said. “So as a business, to avoid such fees, the best way is to hang tight offshore, reduce fuel consumption and wait for further instructions. But, of course, this is only practical if the respective situation calls for it.” 

The Ever Linking, also bound for the Port of Los Angeles, was sailing at a speed of 19-plus knots when it departed Taipei but suddenly slowed down to 16 knots on Tuesday.

“The weather was very good, so we cannot say winds caused the slowdown,” Ashiq said. “[The ship] maintained this slow speed for approximately 25 hours until, on June 15, she resumed a higher speed of around 18-plus knots. [Its] ETA to the Port of Los Angeles is June 17, 3:30 a.m. local time.” 

The vessel is headed to the Everport Terminals.

The path of the Wan Hai 353, destined to the Port of Long Beach, shows a departure from Ningbo, China, on June 1, sailing steady at 17-plus knots, but it has also encountered higher winds during transit across the Pacific Ocean. However, like the other vessels, on Tuesday, the vessel suddenly dropped its speeds and drifted at less than 2 knots for nearly two days, approximately 500 nautical miles away from the Port of Long Beach, where it is scheduled to go to the Long Beach Container Terminal.  

“This indicates that the vessel had been ordered to delay arrival and kill time until more direction could be provided,” Ashiq said. “She is currently on her way inbound with an ETA of [Friday at] 9 p.m. local time and sailing at 9.9 knots. All of these vessels are just examples of how the slowdown has impacted the transit time of vessels.”

Paul Brashier, vice president of drayage and intermodal at ITS Logistics, told American Shipper that his team has been keeping track of the ever-changing ETAs of the vessels carrying their clients’ products.

“The last two weeks have been a very busy one for the staff,” he said. “Clients saw the uncertainty and we started receiving calls for their future freight to be moved to the East Coast ports.”

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