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By Gene Park

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Sept. 30) - A clog in the transportation lines in Southern California due to labor shortages and an unusually large congestion of ships may delay holiday shipments to Guam.

Shipping out of the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports - two of the busiest ports in the nation - have been delayed by days in the past month.

Earlier in the month, a labor shortage at both ports delayed shipments, and Guam saw shipments delayed for as long as three days. Matson Navigation confirmed yesterday shipping to Guam from the two ports has meant a six- to seven-day delay.

At any given time in recent weeks, according to a Los Angeles Times report, there have been as many as 83 ships waiting for unloading, a number larger than many international navies.

It takes several days to empty each of those ships, which is twice as long as when the ports are hosting the normal traffic of less than 50 ships.

No significant problems are anticipated or present for some Guam retailers and distributors, even as the holiday season draws near.

Kevin Yoo, general manager of California Mart, said the store did receive some delays before switching to a shipping company that does not operate out of the two Southern California ports.

The produce that they receive -- cabbages, potatoes and oranges -- was being delayed for a few days, however.

Twinkles, a toy store in the Guam Premier Outlets, also anticipates full shelves of Christmas toys and no shipping delays.

"We do ship out of Los Angeles, but we've been ordering really early," said Mae Martin, toy store supervisor. "Our merchandising manager has been really good about ordering early, so right now all our Christmas items are starting to come in. Because of that, there shouldn’t be a problem."

Lou Palomo, office manager for Dickerson & Quinn, assured there have been no shipping delays for the company, but refrained from further comment.

Pay-Less Supermarkets, the island’s largest supermarket chain, also expects no delays because the store receives shipments out of the Oakland port, Assistant General Manager Mike Benito has said.

There are a number of factors that are causing the delays at the two ports, said Tom Ahillen, general manager of Matson Navigation on Guam.

"I think the cargo coming from Asia going into the U.S. mainland is higher than it’s ever been," Ahillen said. "Every major port in the nation is increasing volume."

The intermodal system, or shipping to the port via trains and trucks, also is being overburdened by the large volume of shipment coming in or going out, Ahillen said.

The Los Angeles Times reported that truckers are paid by the load, and their profit is whatever is left after lease, insurance, gas, registration and maintenance costs have been paid. But many of the truckers have had to wait in line for hours just to pick up the loads, affecting their ability to earn a living.

Add the fact that the ships are three times the size of the ships coming to Guam and the delays may affect Guam holiday shipping, Ahillen said.

Ahillen also said Matson can’t ship directly out of the Oakland port because much of the produce and shipments come out of Los Angeles and Southern California.

The Los Angeles Times also reported that Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, has decided to move more goods through Southern California in September and October than before, which could exacerbate the situation.

The Associated Press has previously reported that although 3,000 additional longshoremen are being hired, the new hires can only be trained at a rate of 250 a week.

"And just because we have the additional labor doesn’t mean that the intermodal system will get fixed," Ahillen said. "My belief, and by all the indication we get, is by the time they hire additional workers, and get all of these people trained, I think it will affect holiday shipping."

October 1, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com


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