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Shipping jam at Southern California ports creates new opportunity for Port of Hueneme

A FedEx truck leaves the Port of Hueneme with one of the 300 cargo containers just delivered from China as part of a new deal involving the logistics company, and the port facility.

First in series of FedEx chartered cargo ships from Asia arrives in Ventura County as part of new deal with port.

Crews at the Port of Hueneme are busy unloading a cargo ship which has just arrived from China. It’s loaded with goods like electronics and clothes, things which normally don't come through the Ventura County port.

But, this is the result of a new effort by shipping and delivery giant FedEx, and the Port of Hueneme to skirt the huge logistics backlog at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

"The Port of Los Angeles is really like the heart of the economy," said Dr. Udo Lange, the President and CEO of FedEx Logistics. "It pumps in all the cargo to the heart of the country. So, what happened is that heart is basically currently congested," said Lange.

"So, what you can do is put a bypass in," said the FexEx official. "The Port Hueneme solution is like a bypass solution."

The Port of Hueneme can’t handle the huge container ships that go to the L-A area ports. But, what FedEx is doing is chartering some smaller ships which can dock in Ventura County.

And, instead of giant containers which have to be unloaded, the ship has 53 foot long containers which are specifically filled with goods FedEx is shipping. The containers are being put directly onto trucks for shipment to their destinations.

Officials say this approach is getting goods offloaded, and on the way to customers and is running 20 days faster than if it happened through the LA area ports.

Christina Birdsey is the Port of Hueneme’s Chief Operations Officer.

"We move a little bit differently than some of our big brothers...LA, Long Beach," said Birdsey. "So, we were able to have a great partnership with FedEx because they had all the pieces in play," said the port official. "It's not just about getting the boxes here," she said, "It's about having all the pieces so we don't become congested as well."

There’s actually another element to the new program. The Port is a joint use facility with the Navy. To make the FedEx deal work, the Navy is allowing the use of one of its docks.

Port officials hope that FedEx’s efforts to circumvent the huge jam-up at the LA area ports will translate into ongoing new business. FedEx has already booked three ships to bring goods through the Ventura County port, and port officials say they are in talks to bring at least two more.