“Run To Daylight” (An encore)

Vince Lombardi coined the expression “Run to daylight”, and because of him and his champion Green Bay Packer teams the meaning behind those words will never require further clarification. Coach Lombardi and his offensive coordinators wisely directed running backs away from those areas of congestion which, as every fan knew, would impede the team’s progress and lead to a shut down rather than a first down.

Why don’t port authorities, terminal operators and ship owners recognize the logical philosophy employed by successful coaches at every level? Some of the ship owners do, of course, by diverting their ships away from bottlenecks such as the one prevailing at LA/Long Beach. Most shipping lines, however, have no safety valves in their game plans and have no recourse other than to add their vessels to the pileup. The result? No gain. Back to the drawing board. In a football game the assistant coaches “up in the booth”, a vantage point providing a bird’s-eye view of the congestion down on the field, sense that in their arena of operation an end run might be just the right call at this point. Although they can only speculate how much yardage will be gained by this stratagem, they’re assured of one development at least; the congestion will no longer be in the middle of that line of scrimmage.

A coaching staff would see the obstructions hindering the movement of our cargo containers and would react by calling for some kind of an end run, or a spread formation, or anything that would dilute the congestion in the middle of our scrimmage line. These tacticians would never lay the blame for a pileup on a flanker or a wide receiver far removed from the logjam. Maritime consultants and logisticians, on the other hand, in casting about for the culprits responsible for supply chain backups, have repeatedly done just that. In placing responsibility on the shoulders of truck drivers, or on rail systems, or on outdated or inadequate highways, these analysts do a disservice to those at every point in the supply chain. Who gains? No one. Who loses? Unlike the game of football, where a winner almost always emerges, everyone is a loser in today’s unsuccessful efforts to solve our supply line and security problems.

After studying the many and varied reports about the unequaled and overpowering tie-ups in the LA/Long Beach complex these past months, could there be any doubt in anyone’s mind that the source of these worsening conditions lies within the terminals and not anywhere else? It has long been evident that if terminal operators could disgorge containers through the gates at the same rate that longshoremen offload vessels, then there would be no logjams, no tie-ups, no congestion. Conventionally-structured container yards have already reached the point where their operational capabilities restrict container deliveries to a number far below the number of container arrivals. This deficient condition has been anticipated for the past decade and although logisticians and maritime interests have devoted unlimited time, money and space to this threatening eventuality, every effort made so far has turned out to be nothing more than a stopgap measure. Let’s admit that desperate times call for desperate measures. Let’s try something logical.