NWSA operations during COVID-19 response
Updated Oct. 19, 2020
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What is the situation with the state of Washington in terms of shelter-in-place and lock-down mandates? Most states are discussing the timing of releasing business from activity shutdowns, post curve peaks.
Washington’s stay-at-home directive varies by county, according to the updated four-phase, county-by-county “Safe Start” reopening plan. Regardless of the current phase, supply chain remains exempted and allows us to continue operating and our gateway will remain open.
Would a shutdown at one terminal cause all to shut down to all terminals in NWSA?
No. Typically it is isolated but depends on the contact within the workforce. Most likely they are usually isolated incidents. We would not see a widespread closure due to the separation in the workforce and among terminals. We will follow guidance from the local public health department and CDC for any positive COVID-19 exposure.
If a terminal were to shut down at the NWSA, would those ships in their queue berth elsewhere?
It depends on the specific circumstances, but a facility shutdown would most likely last 24 hours. In this timeframe, it is unlikely a vessel would berth at another terminal. Most likely the ship would anchor and then berth once the terminal was reopened.
Does the NWSA have a plan if someone tests positive at the ports?
The NWSA and its partners developed contingency plans should port operations be disrupted. The organization impacted — whether it be a terminal operator, the longshore hall, or the NWSA — will continue to work with local health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine what steps need to be taken to mitigate the impact and ensure the virus is not spread.
The NWSA has inherent redundancies in its structure and operations. The NWSA’s Seattle and the Tacoma harbors each have their respective longshore and maintenance workforces. There are two dispatch halls and, under recently adopted rules, the waterfront workers in one harbor are precluded from traveling to work outside their homeport. Thus, a local outbreak (e.g., at a terminal) may affect one harbor, but is unlikely to halt all operations in the gateway.
Addressing safety concerns
What are the protocols at terminals for cleaning and checking workers for signs of illness?
All employees are being reminded that if they have any symptoms to not come to work and to notify their medical professional.
Are there any concerns about shortages of cleaning materials for the terminals?
Terminals have on-call contractors in place for a complete terminal cleaning in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. Moreover, the NWSA is engaged with the state and federal government to obtain cleaning supplies earmarked for port operations to ensure the supply chain remains functioning.
Are the containers/freight being wiped down or sprayed with anything to limit the chances of the virus spreading once it lands?
We are not aware of this occurring at this time.
Knowing approved masks are in shortage in the U.S., is the NWSA providing masks to staff and ILWU?
The marine terminal operators are providing masks to ILWU.
Are PPE supplies to all the marine terminals sufficient or is there a need to supplement those supplies with assistance from the state or others?
Terminals report adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitizing supplies. They are currently able to fulfill near term need.
What is the NWSA doing to mitigate the wait time issues, what is the plan to staunch the loss of volume?
The NWSA recognizes the current situation presents challenges for customers and stakeholders across the entire supply chain. We continue to stay engaged with all parties to help facilitate solutions and are looking into possible realignment of the Gate Efficiency Program to assist. We encourage more participation in forums such as the Washington Trucking Association Trucker Outreach Forum, and for stakeholders to follow best practices suggested in these discussions.
Where can I find the latest information on terminal schedules?
Terminal operators are monitoring vessel volumes and setting their hours accordingly. Check the latest 14-day international gate schedules.
Will terminals adjust their equipment availability dates to account for gate closures?
Generally, terminals extend free time for import containers not on demurrage and open/close dates for vessels are adjusted to allow the same number of delivery/receive days. However, the situation may vary according to terminal and ocean carrier, and we suggest you contact your provider for the most accurate information.
Is there coordination with chassis providers to ensure chassis levels remain strong?
Our Operations Service Center team is in direct communication with all chassis providers and will continue to engage with them to work through any shortages or displacements as the volume increases. The local TPNP pool manager and other chassis providers have worked to ensure assets stay in the region and have managed volume fluctuations in the past well.
What are the requirements for vessels originating from affected countries?
The U.S. Coast Guard is responsible for these requirements. Per 42 CFR 71.21, vessels destined for a U.S. port are required to report to the CDC any sick or deceased crew/passengers during 15 days prior to arrival at the U.S. port. Vessels with healthy crews continue to sail under normal conditions.
Are the terminals doing anything to balance container equipment between facilities?
Equipment is balanced by the ocean carrier, not the marine terminal operator. For any equipment issues, please contact the ocean carrier directly.
Are you seeing any congestion from non-essential importers freight?
All terminals report that non-essential cargo continues to move through at a normal flow.
U.S. Customs & Border Protection
U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) plans to host another trade outreach online meeting soon. How can I get more information and sign up?
The specific date has not been announced. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the distribution list.
How is the NWSA identifying and expediting critical freight?
If there are critical shipments, this can be communicated with the ocean carrier and/or marine terminal operator to get expedited service. From a customs clearance standpoint if you have any types of personal protective equipment (PPE) imports, please reach out to CBP Assistant Port Director-Trade Luca Furnare to help expedite those shipments.
Can you summarize the procedure and any restrictions for vessel crew changes?
Crew changes are based on the vessel operator’s decision. However, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection most crew have remained on board, especially due to the local region’s stay-at-home directive. CBP is also now accepting electronic filing of vessel documents to minimize face-to-face contact. Any crew changes that do occur are expected to follow local jurisdictions guidelines for social distancing.
Total truck experience times on the NWSA website reflect multiple day averages and not an individual busy day when turn times may be longer. Can a weekly publication be released that is more reflective of actual experience by day?
Our website features live truck turn times and historical terminal data. Based on industry feedback, we are working with our IT department to enhance and improve our turn time reporting capability. We hope to upgrade in the near future.
How can I get more information and sign up for a trucker outreach forum?
The NWSA and the Washington Trucking Association (WTA) will host a virtual trucker outreach forum, which is open to the public. The next meeting’s date is Dec. 9. Please contact Brandon Beetham at Brandon@watrucking.org.
Are there any updates regarding the West Seattle Bridge closure? Are there any truck-specific lanes being developed for alternate routes?
Truck traffic is prioritized on the Spokane Street "Low Bridge" to access Terminal 5 in Seattle. Truck drivers should avoid detour routes, like West Marginal Way, to help move general traffic that is not allowed on the bridge. As updates become available, we will publish them on our website and share with our stakeholders. The most current information on the status of the West Seattle Bridge can be found on the Seattle Department of Transportation's website.
What can the trucking community do to help the NWSA and marine terminal operators?
First item is to take preventative measures; stay at home if you are sick and use proper PPE including washing of hands (follow CDC guidelines). Social distancing is key so please adhere to policies of each terminal. Carry disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizers to maintain good hygiene. From an operations standpoint, it is suggested truckers make an appointment for any transaction where available and then arrive to the terminal only within the designated appointment window.
Are we seeing any shortage of truck drivers as related to the COVID-19?
What is your impression on the rest of the supply chain: truckers and truck availability, rail facilities, CFS's, warehouses, etc.? Can you comment on what you are seeing and experiencing out there outside your respective gates?
Overall, cargo is flowing in the greater Puget Sound region. Transload and warehouse facilities are open and working. So far there is ample trucking capacity, and the rail network is fluid. The NWSA remains in close coordination with the state government officials to ensure the entire supply chain industry is designated as essential, allowing these critical businesses and operations to remain open. We are grateful to all the women and men who continue to come to work and keep cargo flowing in this challenging time.
Are there plans to require drivers to use PPE to conduct normal business as they move through the terminals?
There are no plans at this time to require drivers to use PPE other than their normally required high visibility vest. In case there is a requirement for additional equipment to be worn, the NWSA is compiling an inventory to help supply stakeholders.
The Washington State Department of Health requires face coverings and masks in all public spaces because they are effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19, especially when combined with 6 feet of physical distance. Learn more.
Any rail delays/issues, either in or out of the region?
Rail operation continues to be fluid through our gateway; there are no reports of widespread delays either eastbound or westbound. The NWSA continues to engage the Class I railroads, terminal operators and ocean carriers to ensure adequate rail car supply.
Where can I find the information on additional capacity and those rail facilities?
Here are the links to the following information:
Is there a rough estimate you can share on storage capabilities? How many TEU/FEUs can be stored?
The NWSA has compiled a list of facilities that are available for storage in the gateway. The list, including contact information, is available online. Please reach out to the NWSA Business Development team if you have specific requests or need help with additional information on available locations.
Are you starting to see an increase in volume of containers being left at terminals for a longer period by the retailers considered as "non-essential"?
Has any ocean carrier indicated any future decreases in capacity?
All ocean carriers have reinstated services to their normal frequency. We are unaware of any future capacity changes at this time.
What is the status of reefer capacity and availability, nearby cold storage and transload for export, and container capacity?
Based on outreach conducted by the NWSA, multiple cold storage facilities in the region report open space for transload. Container availability varies by ocean carrier and there have been reports of shortages recently.
As an exporter we received notification of equipment shortage this week. Has the NWSA heard of any other exporters starting to experience this as well?
We are aware of some spot shortages, although situation depends on ocean carrier and equipment type.
We are seeing an increase in demand for agricultural exports for the next few months. Do you foresee challenges with available empty containers being available due to lower import volumes?
Numerous void sailings throughout Q1 and Q2 created an irregular equipment flow and we know some ocean carriers are experiencing shortages of certain equipment types. We expect this to improve when consumer demand improves and imports increase. We encourage exporters to communicate with your specific ocean carrier on need and provide forecasts.
Which export destinations were impacted the most by the canceled sailings?
Direct port calls in China and Korea were most impacted by canceled sailings from the NWSA.
Is the NWSA hearing of any distribution facility closures in the region due to COVID-19?
We are not aware of any facility closing specifically because of health and safety issues. Warehouse, distribution and transload facilities are considered essential and continue to operate. We are watching the situation closely and in anticipation of any closures we have a list of container yard facilities that can offer temporary storage here.
Construction projects during COVID-19
Has there been a reduction in maintenance and construction projects due to impacts from COVID-19?
Key projects deemed essential infrastructure, such as the Terminal 5 modernization and the Husky Terminal’s Lot F gate complex, continue without major delays so far. Maintenance of essential infrastructure, such as paving and repair work, also continues. Other projects considered less critical have been put on hold. The City of Tacoma’s Taylor Way reconstruction project broke ground in July 2020.