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Port’s “Container Dwell Time” Under Scrutiny at LA/Long Beach

Both ports tell LM that they support the effort. By Patrick Burnson

As noted in reports generated at the recent annual meeting of the <a href="">American Association of Port Authorities</a>, there’s been a new effort by many members to establish more “granular” details on container throughput. 

According to the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA) one of the more meaningful metrics is “Dwell Time,” the amount of time a container waits to get picked up at a marine terminal after being unloaded from a vessel. 

The nation’s two biggest ports – LA and Long Beach – are being used as beta models for PMSA’s effort to analyze container dwell time at all 12 international container terminals in San Pedro Bay. 

PMSA retained SC Analytics to collect data from marine terminals and analyze and aggregate container dwell time for a San Pedro Bay complex‐wide perspective. The analysis examines the weighted average dwell time in both days and longshore shifts. This is the first report and PMSA intends to publish this data monthly. 

“Hopefully this information will provide data‐driven solutions for improved supply chain efficiency,” says PMSA President, John McLaurin. 

The announcement comes at a time when the Port of Long Beach has been trying to rid itself of abandoned containers left in the wake of the Hanjin bankruptcy. The Port of Los Angeles, meanwhile, has been taking on more inbound traffic as a consequence. 

Port of Los Angeles spokesman, Phillip Sanfield said in an interview that the new metric is a good idea and will be welcomed by authorities there. The Port of Long Beach was equally supportive:

"The Port of Long Beach supports PMSA’s efforts to collect and analyze data on dwell time. The  more information we have concerning the movement of cargo will help industry stakeholders and the Port fine-tune our supply chain optimization efforts," says Noel Hacegaba,the port's Chief Commercial Officer and Managing Director of Commercial Operations.

Dwell time is an indicator of how efficient the ports are operating and how quickly the containers are flowing through the terminals. Every time a truck shows up to pick up a container, a stack of containers get shuffled around to get to the intended one; this is a time‐consuming process which hinders the efficiency for both terminals and truckers. With longer dwell times, terminals are storing more containers, and truckers must wait for longer periods as containers must be moved to reach the older containers on the bottom of each stack.

 With shorter dwell times, terminals are storing fewer containers and able to finish transactions more quickly. In this first report, the data shows that most containers are picked up within 3 days of arrival, but there are a number of containers that overstay their welcome. 

“We will continue to gather data on an ongoing basis and provide it to our supply chain partners and public officials,” adds McLaurin. 

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About the author
Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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