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1016 - 01/15 - West Coast Port Congestion, Perishable Cargo Issues - USA
The Association has seen an increase in claims filed for damage to refrigerated cargo due to the delays vessels are experiencing caused by the West Coast port congestion.
The ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles and Oakland are jammed with ships waiting to unload containers. The US Coast Guard warned shipping lines 10 days ago that they should be prepared to make alternate mooring arrangements or expect that the ship will need to remain at sea until safe anchorage space becomes available. In the San Francisco Bay, there are currently no anchorages available for big ships with drafts in excess of 25 ft.
The increase in traffic has caused a pileup of containers on the docks which need to be shipped out to make room for more containers, and has led to a backup of goods arriving at the ports for shipment overseas. The system is backed up all the way to the mid-west.
Claims are being filed against lines for perishable commodities such as asparagus which are arriving 10 days late. The delays cause the transit time to exceed the 3 week shelf life. Lines have bills of lading clauses absolving them from claims filed for delay but this leads to unhappy customers, potential legal expenses to defend claims and potential commercial settlements.
The Association recommends lines avoid accepting bookings for commodities with less than 3 weeks shelf life until the situation on the West Coast improves. It is also recommended that lines are diligent in monitoring the temperatures of refrigerated containers and ensuring the reefers are plugged in and fuelled at all times during transit. Any lack of monitoring could cause a possible defensible claim to become a legitimate claim.
Source of Information
Thomas Miller (Americas)
San Francisco, USA