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On the news front from JOC is giving us a good article, which you can find here partially.
Maintaining momentum is challenge facing new LA port director
In Gene Seroka’s first meeting with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti after being named executive director of the Port of Los Angeles last month, the mayor told Seroka what is expected of him:
“Maintain and grow the nation’s number one port.”
The momentum is certainly there to grow the port in this era of big ships and big carrier alliances. As carriers deploy ever-larger vessels into their trans-Pacific services, consolidating their cargo volumes at fewer ports, the Southern California gateway of Los Angeles and Long Beach finds itself in the garden spot on the West Coast.
Statistics developed by JOC Group show that in the first quarters of 2012-2014, the Southern California port complex increased its market share on the Pacific Coast of North America from 58.6 percent to 61.4 percent.
Growth, however, comes with problems. In Southern California, the cargo surges generated by vessels with capacities of 8,000 to 14,000 20-foot containers are straining the ability of marine
terminals, truckers, railroads and the entire inland transportation infrastructure to handle thousands of containers in a narrow time frame.
Los Angeles, like other large ports in North America, is experiencing congestion in the container yards and at the terminal gates, and shortages of chassis and rail cars. Harbor truckers are unhappy and marine terminal operators are seeking better availability of
chassis and rail equipment.
Seroka speaks the language of the industry and understands the urgency of these issues. He brings to his position 25 years of experience in ocean shipping, global logistics and executive
management with APL, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Neptune Orient Lines.
Seroka joined APL in 1988 as a sales support representative in the company’s Cincinnati office after earning his MBA and bachelor of science in marketing degrees from the University of New Orleans. His overseas postings with APL and APL Logistics included executive positions
in Shanghai, Indonesia, Singapore and Dubai, and his responsibilities covered
much of Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.
Seroka was named APL’s president of the Americas in 2010, and most recently was head of commercial in the America’s region. APL is one of the largest carriers serving the Port of Los Angeles, and its sister company Eagle Marine operates the 291-acre Pier 300 terminal at the port, so Seroka has first-hand knowledge of the advantages and operational challenges
facing the port.
Ports and terminal operators are understandably concerned about the power that large shipping lines and carrier alliances have gained in the marketplace, and how the lines can leverage the huge container volumes under their control to seek better deals.
There seems to be no permanence today as to where carriers send their vessels, even in the same port complex. In recent years some carriers have moved their vessel calls from Long Beach to Los Angeles, while others have moved their ship calls from Los Angeles to Long Beach. At present, some weekly services by carrier alliances rotate their vessel calls
between the two ports.
Seroka is not overly concerned. “The fact is, the Port of Los Angeles has always gotten a good share of the business,” he said.
Container statistics bear that fact out. Los Angeles in 2013 handled 7.9 million TEUs. That was down from the pre-recession peak of 8.5 million TEUs in 2006, but was still good enough to make Los Angeles the nation’s top container port. Long Beach, the number two port, handled 6.7 million TEUs in 2013.
In today’s unsettled port environment, where carriers move freely from one terminal to another, Seroka said Los Angeles must continue to earn its market share because carriers send their ships to the terminals that are the most efficient in turning the large vessels.
Los Angeles was therefore primed recently to handle its first-ever call by a 13,000-TEU ship. The vessel operator (China Ocean Shipping Co.), pilots, longshoremen and terminal operator did their job, and Seroka said they concluded, “Yeah, we can do this.”
Big ships are a way of life now in Southern California.
Long Beach receives regular calls by 14,000-TEU vessels, and both ports on a weekly basis handle a number of 8,000 to 10,000-TEU ships. These mega-ships have had a huge impact on the ports because of the unique vessel deployments in the carriers’ Pacific Southwest services.
Unlike East Coast ports, where vessel strings call at three or four ports, most Pacific Southwest services from Asia call only in Southern California inbound and Oakland outbound before returning to Asia. As the first inbound port, terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach regularly handle 5,000 container moves per vessel call, and total container moves of 8,000 moves
or more per vessel call are becoming more common.
The Southern California port complex is therefore the test case in North America for terminal operators in handling the cargo surges as each new generation of vessels is introduced. That is why operating efficiently, and understanding how cargo-handling works, is crucial to Los
Angeles maintaining its role as the largest port, Seroka said.
Harbor Commissioner David Arian, a veteran longshoreman and former president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, heads up the commission’s efficiency task force, he noted.
The Southern California ports over the past decade have prepared the way for big ships. They invested billions of dollars in dredging their access channels to a depth of greater than 50 feet, rebuilt container terminals to accommodate super post-Panamax cranes and expanded their
on-dock intermodal rail capacity.
Seroka therefore believes Los Angles is staying slightly ahead of the curve in producing the infrastructure development needed to handle the big ships. “Los Angeles is known as a port that anticipates its needs for the future,” he said.
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