New York port truckers press FMC for emergency order

trucks moving containers at marine port.

Ocean carriers and marine terminals should be forced to share more accurate container storage data to improve cargo flows at the Port of New York and New Jersey, according to trucking companies serving the facility.

Those companies, which specialize in intermodal container drayage, are responding to a comment request from the Federal Maritime Commission on a potential emergency order mandating such data sharing with trucking, shippers and railroads.

The FMC was required to consider the proposed order, which includes a 30-day public comment period expiring Sept. 14, by the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 as a way to help clear supply chain bottlenecks at U.S. ports.

The majority of responses so far have come from drayage companies at the Port of New York and New Jersey, where congestion has been on the rise.

“As a matter of course, ocean carriers have access to accurate information regarding how many of their containers are on last free day before accruing per diem or demurrage,” stated Lisa Yakomin, president of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers, in comments filed with the FMC.

“While not a precise predictor of how many containers will be picked up or returned on a given day, this information is certainly a helpful indicator of the potential number of containers that will be picked up or returned. [Ocean carriers] sharing this data at least 48 hours in advance would provide heightened visibility to [marine terminal operators], especially those terminals that require appointments.”

Ocean carriers are responsible for sharing this updated container “free time” data, Yakomin asserts, “because they are the entity contracting with the shipper and negotiating the amount of free time, which can vary widely.”

Yakomin and her members are also pushing the FMC to require the marine terminals to share more detailed information on container space availability, particularly for the return of empties.

“Marine terminals that require appointments in order to gain entry do not currently provide enough information about the number and type of appointments made available on any given day,” she stated. “This often leads to the unfair assessment of fees, especially when the [ocean carrier] billing department believes that a return location was made available, but in reality, the number of returns was strictly limited, and the majority of those who needed an appointment could not get one.”

For terminals that require appointments, Yakomin wants the FMC to require them to provide data on the number available for each type of move — specific to time slot, ocean carrier and container size — “and document when those appointment slots are fully booked and no longer available by notifying shippers, motor carriers and ocean carriers.”

Data shortfall costing drayage truckers money

Michael Miqueli, president of North Bergen, N.J.-based San Antonio Broker Services, told the FMC that the lack of updated container data from the carriers and marine terminals at the Port of New York and New Jersey is costing his company money and lost business.

“We made appointments to return containers only to be turned away because the port or the [ocean carrier] had stopped receiving/had hit the quota for the containers being returned,” Miqueli stated in his comments.

“The volume of dollars that we have lost as a small company because of all of the irresponsibility of the SSL [steamship line] will never be made up,” he stated, including “astronomical rents that we pay to hold empty containers and chassis for the SSL and lose that space for our own business.”

“I have lost the majority of loads I was handling for one of our largest accounts because they blamed us instead of the steamship lines for this chaos,” Miqueli added. “They decided to give it to 10 different carriers rather than have us handle their business as we have been for the last five years.”

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