By DOROTHY COX
The Trucker Staff
After reaching a tentative union agreement that covers the West Coast’s 29 seaports, dockworkers are clearing a mammoth backlog of cargo, but FreightWatch warns that in the rush to get goods moved and loaded, cargo safety could take a back seat.
“The requirement to move this enormous surge of cargo coupled with the systemic lack of driver assets yields a decreased quality of available carriers moving cargo through the volatile terrain,” FreightWatch said in a Feb. 26 threat assessment, adding that fewer and fewer drivers have knowledge of cargo security protocols.
The FreightWatch International Supply Chain Intelligence Center will be monitoring the situation but recommends that shippers “take precautionary measures as cargo will remain vulnerable throughout this process.”
Layered security measures are recommended, such as covert GPS tracking and active monitoring.
FreightWatch International provides logistics security services and cargo transparency throughout the supply chain.
The group said that from 2013 to 2014, 25 percent of all loaded cargo theft in the U.S. occurred within 200 miles of the ports of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, with crimes higher than the national average: 81 percent for clothing and shoes and 47 percent for electronics.
“As the massive backlog of cargo begins to release into the supply chain, the frenetic situation will be rife with opportunity for cargo criminals,” FreightWatch cautioned, adding that all parties involved should follow best practices for transportation security.
Indeed, The Associated Press reported this week that the cargo backlog has “hardly ever been worse,” adding that the 24 container ships anchored outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach held so much cargo Feb. 23 that if all their containers were stacked up they would rise more than 300 miles, higher than the orbit of the International Space Station.
“The bottleneck has ensnared farm and manufacturing exports as well as imported auto parts, toys, furniture and coffee beans, just about anything the United States trades with Asian nations,” AP stated.
Last fall, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union began slowing their work, with marine terminal operators responding by locking them out, and the ensuing tug-of-war causing some shipping jams.
Compounding the problem at LA/Long Beach was a shortage of truck beds to carry containers to and from the dockside yards.
And because of consolidation within the shipping industry, cargo was sometimes randomly loaded aboard ships in Asia rather than grouped by importer or destination, making off-loading a nightmare.
Under a contract reached Feb. 20, leaders of the union and the Pacific Maritime Association agreed that freight would be loaded and unloaded as fast as possible, but Monday found inexperienced workers operating the giant cranes used to unload cargo vessels, adding to more of a slowdown.
The deal reached by unions and terminal operators is for five years but is labeled as “tentative” because it was between negotiators who don’t have the authority to reach a final deal, according to AP.
It will take the union about two months to reach a final agreement.
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