- The Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) will expand gate hours during peak season this year and next with its new Gate Efficiency Program, according to a press release. Beginning July 1 the terminal will be open from 6 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. These expanded hours will increase cargo capacity, which the ports hopes will improve turn times at the port. The program will end Dec. 31, 2020.
- Terminal 18, operated by SSA Terminals, is the first terminal planning to expand operations with the new nighttime hours. NWSA is currently working with other terminal operators to expand the program.
- "Having some night gates just really helps truckers get in and out of terminals," Katie Whittier, an NWSA spokesperson told Supply Chain Dive, adding "turn times is our main driver." Turn times are the time it takes for a truck to move through a marine terminal to pick up cargo and exit.
Terminal 18 broke volume records in 2018 when it became the first terminal in the history of Washington state to handle 1 million TEUs in a single year.
"It's just going gangbusters," Whittier said. This increased container volume is part of the reason the port is considering expanded hours.
"We're also just seeing a lot of our competitors offering more gate hours than we've been offering and so we need need to get in the game," Whittier said. "So that's part of it as well."
Turn times are an important consideration for carriers, shippers and drivers who are all looking for cargo to flow through the terminals as quickly as possible. It's becoming such an important metric that some ports are taking the step of making the information public, as the Port of Oakland did earlier this year. Just-in-time retailers with low inventory levels rely on quick moving supply chains and truck drivers worry about long wait times eating into their hours of service, which are restricted by federal regulations.
Multiple ports have taken the step of implementing a truck reservation system to improve turn times by spreading out traffic throughout the day. When these changes work, ports are likely to highlight the results in hopes of drawing more shippers to their docks.
The NWSA approved up to $2 million to reimburse terminal operators for some of the cost of operating during these new hours, according to the release. Terminal operators can participate at three different levels:
- Tier 1: The terminal operator will operate three off-hour gates per week during the 2019 and 2020 peak seasons and two off-hour gates per week during the non-peak season.
- Tier 2: The terminal operator will operate three off-hour gates per week during the 2019 and 2020 peak seasons.
- Tier 3: The terminal operator will operate two off-hour gates per week during the 2019 and 2020 peak seasons.