December 19, 2014 | Industry Insights

West Coast Port Congestion Causes Holiday Havoc

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West Coast Port Congestion Causes Holiday Havoc

Retail executives, frustrated en masse by West Coast port congestion, say their goods are paralyzed in transit this holiday buying season and fourth-quarter sales numbers will suffer.

Port and ground transportation problems are causing delays, and it is now taking up to a month for shipments to clear ports, according to comments made to The Wall Street Journal by Tommy Bahama president and COO Doug Wood.

Contract disputes appear to be at the heart of the problems. The Pacific Maritime Association, which negotiates with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on behalf of 72 member companies in shipping and terminal operations, says the union is purposely slowing down traffic, though the union claims delays are caused by port mismanagement.

As a result of the nearly six-month-long contract dispute and ensuing port delays, many retailers have begun routing shipments to East Coast ports. Others have turned to air shipments for relief but are facing limits imposed by package-delivery groups, such as FedEx, and elevated costs due to airfreight fees.

Congestion is hurting more than retail. A group of 61 agricultural enterprises sent a letter to the White House in November asking for government intervention in the contract dispute. The administration has said it doesn’t plan to get involved. The effect goes beyond our borders, as contracts abroad go unfulfilled and U.S. companies start looking like “shaky suppliers,” one agricultural exporter tells the Journal.

With port delays, goods awaiting offloading become more susceptible to damage and spoilage. Changing tracks to East Coast ports and airfreight seems to be the most reliable method at this point, but that kind of pivot requires a revamp of shipping insurance contracts among many other operational changes, including shipment reporting.

At Roanoke Trade, our professional brokers are prepared to turn on a dime when necessary to engineer new commercial cargo insurance contracts that respond to your alternative shipping needs. Providing accurate certificates of insurance to the right parties and working efficiently with shipping insurers to get new plans underwritten is our priority so you can get your cargo moving again.

Additionally, we can help you understand changes to your exposures as you adopt new shipping methods. Our Roanoke team works closely with our risk prevention experts to deliver informed and appropriate cargo insurance selections for every need.

We invite you to learn more about us, our experienced talent in this highly specialized area, our creative solutions, and the value we will bring to you and your clients. Please contact us at 1-800-ROANOKE.

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