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South Coast port tries to help with massive cargo ship backlog in Los Angeles, Long Beach ports

KCLU News Photo
The Port of Hueneme is a specialty port, and can't handle the large scale container carriers which dock in Los Angeles and Long Beach. But, the harbor is trying to help by taking smaller ships which might otherwise go to ports further south.

But, most container ships are too big to dock at Port of Hueneme.

We’ve all heard about the massive shipping backlog that’s clogged the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Those ports are the portals to many of the goods we get from Asia. It’s fueling shortages of some items, as well as increased prices.

The Port of Hueneme is taking steps to help. But, the Ventura County facility can’t handle the massive ships which use the bigger ports to the south.

"A lot of the vessels that are outside of the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach are simply too large to call on the Port of Hueneme," said Kristen Decas, the Port of Hueneme’s Director, and Chief Executive Officer.

She says those vessels carry about 9,000 containers each, while the ones which come to Ventura County handle about 1,500 containers.

She talks about what they have been doing that’s helped with the backlog.

"We're seeing certain customers do booking directly to the Port of Hueneme out of Asia on smaller ships," said Decas. She says some larger ships are also stopping in Mexico and Panama, and offloading cargo to smaller ships which can use the Ventura County port.

The Port shares the six wharfs with Naval Base Ventura County. Some are owned by the port, and some by the Navy, but a joint use agreement is making some of the military facilities available for civilian shipping.

The agreement allows the use of more than 30 acres of military land temporarily for cargo purposes. But again, the port is geared towards handling specific cargos, and not massive quantities of containers which pass through the ports of Los Angeles, and Long Beach.

Decas says the port specializes in produce, and vehicles. If you buy a banana on the West Coast, it probably came through the port.

The port executive says part of the reason the Port of Hueneme doesn’t see huge onshore shipping bottlenecks is because it has a different type of workflow than the big Southern California ports.

Containers aren't stored on site. They are immediately moved to offsite facilities.

Decas says the port has operated 24/7 for years, and while the pandemic has impacted business, it’s booming now.

The port official says the bottom line is that they are certainly helping to ease the cargo crisis, but that the Port of Hueneme can’t solve the backlog with L.A. and Long Beach ports.

The port is doing what it can to help. It’s on track to move nearly $11 billion dollars in good this year, and has nearly 16,000 jobs linked to port activities.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.