New ship queueing process at Los Angeles and Long Beach is working

The new ship queuing process off Southern California ports was working, even if not perfectly, according the Marine Exchange of Southern California, one of the entities responsible for designing the process.

The Marine Exchange of Southern California manages Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) with the US Coast Guard for the San Pedro Bay Ports Complex, which includes the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and assists in the safe navigation of vessels approaching the ports in an area extending 25 miles out to sea from Point Fermin.

It said that a new methodology for counting ships in the queue was being developed.

The aim of the new queuing process for ships at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach was to improve safety and air quality off the Southern California coast. It was developed jointly by the Pacific Maritime Association, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, and Marine Exchange of Southern California, and introduced earlier this month. This was after congestion and the backlog of ships anchored or loitering close to shore in Southern California waters reached new peaks.

The updated system established an air quality and safety region that extended 150 miles from the coast. Inbound trans-pacific containerships were requested to avoid this area while waiting for a berth at POLA or Long Beach.

The new process changed how ships entered the queue. Under the old system, ships basically got in line when they arrived within 20nm from the San Pedro Bay Port Complex. The new system requires each vessel to be assigned a place in the arrival queue based on their departure time from their last port of call. This enabled vessels to slow steam across the Pacific and arrive at a time closer to their allocated berth time.

The Marine Exchange, led by Captain James “Kip” Louttit, said that it was true that the new queuing process did not improve congestion at terminals, nor did it do anything to speed up the movement of goods ashore. “We regret that is beyond our ability to influence, but industry took it upon itself to do what could do within the scope of its ability and authority to increase safety and air quality in Southern California, it’s working thus far, and we’re honoured to be part of it,” Captain Louttit said.

The introduction of the new queuing process came at a time when a record number of ships were either anchored or loitering near shore.

In Louttit’s latest update he said that the backup continued “but vessels loitering in SoCal Waters are happily decreasing per the new container vessel queuing system that is spreading the ships out through the Pacific and enabling slow-speed-steaming, increasing safety and air quality. The system truly worked during the storm last Wednesday night with 50 knot winds”.