West Coast ports reopened Tuesday after shutting down for the long weekend because of an ongoing contract dispute between dockworkers and shipping and port terminal operators. The disagreements at the bargaining table have led to gridlock at the ports, disrupting supply distributions from household goods and clothing to food.
Perez flew to San Francisco on Monday to help bring the monthslong negotiations to a resolution.
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At the Port of Long Beach, the second-largest port in the United States, there are about 32 ships at anchor, 22 of which are container vessels, waiting to come into port, Slangerup said.
"That is an enormous and almost record level of backlog sitting out at anchor," he said.
On top of that, its six container terminals are above 95 percent physical capacity.
"The challenge of digging out from under this is immense. It's epic. We've not ever experienced this before and of course this is tied to these very, very large vessels that are now calling upon the ports."
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That said, once a labor agreement is signed, Slangerup said he expects congestion to start easing up within several weeks.
"We think that we're going to make tremendous headway within about six to eight weeks," he said. "We'll certainly be back to normal by our next peak, which is really the September time frame."