The LA and Long Beach Ports have gone ahead by obtaining approval from Kern County Supervisors for a large inland port in Mojave CA. It will provide a place where containers can be gotten off the limited space at the port, and deployed where they can be rerouted to other destinations.
Developing inland ports is a move we’ve been recommending for years now. By ‘we’, I mean my colleague Chris Clott and me. We wrote about it years ago in this paper. Then, we were thinking much farther afield than Mojave, perhaps Chicago or a midwestern site. Those were the days of the land bridge to Europe, which has been reduced and delayed by the congestion of the last year. There is probably still a need for an inland dry port farther on, but the Mojave location should help a lot.
With a capacity of 3 million TEU and access to rail and air as well as truck transport, it should help to reduce congestion at the Los Angeles and Long Beach Ports.
Mojave is inland and to the north of Los Angeles and the ports, about 119 miles and two and a half hours away. There’s a rail connection, as well as some excellent interstate freeways to the door. It should be ideal for both Northern transport toward the Bay Area and north, and Eastward transport toward Las Vegas and beyond.
Klaipeda is in Lithuania, the only substantial port in that country. Geographically it is well-positioned for the maritime industry of the Baltic Sea. A map is instructive.
Lithuania is close to Russia on the east, and Sweden on the west, and also on routes to Finland, Denmark, Germany, Poland, and Norway. There are many opportunities for trade over the sea here.
The conference planned by Klaipeda is connected with Norway, one of the most important locations for maritime innovation.
I’m planning to attend online. I will be listening especially for green innovations and plans to meet European sustainability and ESG goals for the maritime industry.
The Baltic States area has become more important due to the war in the Crimea. Lithuania blocks access to the Russian port of Kaliningrad, which is in an island of Russian territory separated from the main body of Russia. Recently permission was granted to allow transport across Lithuania to Russia, despite the sanctions on Russian shipping. Lithuania is an EU country.
One of the big hassles in container shipping right now is the unfair treatment of drayage drivers. They are often forced to wait because of inadequate capacity at ports. And this is directly traceable to the advent of large ships, which take longer to unload and which result in large numbers of empty containers cluttering up ports. When there are too many containers, the port operations are delayed and cannot be efficient, so often the terminals close their doors to returning containers. They are usually empty.
Then we compound it with the fact that it’s not that useful for the ocean carrier to pick them up for return to an exporting location. It’s almost easier to build a new one in China, say for the next load. Also, an empty container takes up a slot on the ship that could be used for paying cargo. Remember that ocean routes are closed loops with pickups and deliveries along the way. Each stop presents a new version of a loading problem to be solved.
The FMC will look at whether the ocean carriers need to reimburse other supply chain participants for any delays suffered when they can’t return the containers on time. And the carriers have to be more diligent about picking up empties. That’s something the FMC should be able to influence. The carriers will squeal. But they have to start cleaning up their leftovers.