Containers moving, but manual operations cause backup at Maersk

By John Bendel, Land Line editor-at-large | 6/30/2017

A.P. Moller-Maersk port terminals struggled toward normal operations on Friday, but fell short. On its website, the company reported limited operations at all its U.S. facilities, including Port Elizabeth, Los Angeles, Mobile, Miami, and Tacoma. In all instances computers were still down. Trucks were being signed in and out manually.

According to Tom Adamski of First Coast Logistics, a long-time observer of Port Newark/Elizabeth, Maersk’s APM terminal in Port Elizabeth opened for truck traffic Friday morning.

“They were only doing import and not taking empties,” he told Land Line. Containers taken off ships could be picked up for inland transportation. The terminal was not accepting containers for export, he explained.

“They’re working with pencils and clipboards,” Adamski said, “so it was congested.”

At one point in the morning, he said, trucks were backed up from the APM terminal entrance on North Avenue almost to New Jersey Turnpike Interchange 13, over half a mile away.

“The Port Authority acted quickly. They opened up a piece of unused land and staged trucks there. Then things settled down,” Adamski said.

Despite snarls like that at Port Elizabeth this morning, the ransomware cyber-attack that brought Maersk’s computer systems down on Tuesday, June 27, did not cause overwhelming problems for the transportation community as a whole.

Adamski pointed out that while the APM terminal is large, it is just one of 11 at the Port Authority. Few carriers were severely disrupted by the three-day shutdown, he said.

Similarly, Maersk’s problems were less than a crisis for giant logistics provider, C.H. Robinson of Eden Prairie, Minn.

“The biggest problem for us was the terminal closings, but we’ve been working with Maersk manually, by phone, and text,” said Vince Santinello, Ocean Business Development and Route Manager.

Robinson’s exposure was limited in any case. “We’ve done a good job of diversifying,” Santinello said.

The company, he explained, has spread its ocean freight across a spectrum of maritime carriers. “The industry learned a hard lesson from Hanjin,” he said, referring to the sudden collapse of the Korean shipping line last year.

Regarding inland moves from ports, Santinello said C.H.Robinson assigns only some of the truck shipments. Many different trucking companies are specified by the Robinson’s customers.

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