Business & Economy

Congestion still plagues ports of LA and Long Beach

In this Jan. 14, 2015, photo, shipping containers are stacked up waiting for truck transport at the Port of Los Angeles.
In this Jan. 14, 2015, photo, shipping containers are stacked up waiting for truck transport at the Port of Los Angeles.
Damian Dovarganes/AP

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When you place an order at any given Domino's Pizza, you know exactly how long it’s going to take: 30 minutes or less. But try shipping goods through L.A.'s local ports — which handle 40 percent of the nation’s imports — and you'll be told it could take anywhere from days to weeks.

"We deserve better," said Alex Cherin, an executive with California Trucking Association, which represents 70 percent of the trucks moving goods through the ports of L.A. and Long Beach. “We’re better than the pizza industry, yet if I were to ask you how long it takes to get your container out of Pier A at Long Beach, you’d have 100 different answers."

Cherin was speaking at the inaugural Southern California Logistics and Supply Chain Summit in Pomona, a gathering of some 500 people who are key to moving goods through Southern California — including representatives from the region's railroads, truckers, ports, and retailers.

“There is no single solution,” said Cherin.

Many attendees at the summit said the problems of congestion have been building for years at local ports, which were having problems before a nine-month labor dispute between dockworkers and shipping companies, which was resolved two months ago.

“The elephant in the room is the labor issue only made it worse,” said B.J. Patterson, the CEO and President of Pacific Mountain Logistics, which assists companies with distributing their goods. "It’s sad that the largest port of entry can’t do what Domino's does."

That's, in part, due to systemic issues including the port's limited equipment that unload cargo, and the fact that port was never designed for today’s fleets of mega ships.

Port officials acknowledged that it has been difficult for companies moving goods through the ports, but said a $4.5 billion capital improvement project already underway will ease congestion. 

“Don’t give up on us," said Dr. Noel Hacegaba, Chief Commercial Officer at the Port of Long Beach. "We want to win your business back.”