APA Advisory - West Coast Port Congestion & Backlogged Containers

June 3, 2021


SUBJECT:  West Coast Port Congestion and Backlogged Containers

Over the past couple of months, Executive Director Julie Heckman has engaged the assistance of DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) over concerns with the backlog of fireworks containers at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. Approximately 1,000 fireworks containers are caught up in the congestion and many containers have been sitting at the ports for 5-7 weeks. According to DOT’s regulations and port restrictions, hazmat containers are always to be handled as first in – first out.  

To help address this situation, top PHMSA policy makers in Washington, D.C. and officials in PHMSA’s Western Regional Division are working with the Chief Safety Officer at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), as well as with safety personnel at the Coast Guard and Customs. PHMSA and FRA recently met with the Directors of both the Long Beach and LA Ports.  There is recognition that Amazon, Walmart, Target, Costco and other large retailers have monopolized the rail space, contributing to the congestion situation. PHMSA and FRA are working to prioritize the movement of fireworks, explosives and other hazmat containers. 

Yesterday, Ms. Heckman was contacted by PHMSA’s Associate Administrator requesting details regarding the backlog of fireworks containers and he urged her to provide PHMSA with a list of containers stuck at the West Coast ports. 

To that end, if your company has containers that have arrived at the LA or Long Beach ports and have been stuck, sitting at the ports for weeks, please complete one (or both) of the attached spreadsheets (one for Long Beach and a separate one for LA).  PHMSA is looking at this purely from a commodity flow perspective and only needs certain data points.  Simply provide the name of the ocean carrier (e.g. Cosco, CMA, etc.), container number and date of arrival at the port.

Send your spreadsheets to [email protected]  who will consolidate the lists into two master documents and provide the container lists to PHMSA.

While we do not expect miracles, we are grateful to PHMSA and FRA for their willingness to try to assist the fireworks industry with the current backlog of containers that have been sitting idly at the West Coast ports. Hopefully some of these containers will make it to your facilities for the 4th of July season. 

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Julie Heckman at [email protected] or (240) 401-4513.


Advisory 2021-15