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LONDON: Ocean carriers lost US$150 million in the fourth quarter of 2014 as a result of the U.S. West Coast port labor dispute according to Drewry Maritime Research.

"Annualized that would equate to US$600 million, which to put things in perspective would buy 60 gantry cranes or build a two million TEU per annum capacity terminal from scratch," the company adds.

MatsonWith 23 containerships still waiting for a berth at Los Angeles/Long Beach by the end of February, Drewry says carriers should be more open about the time and costs associated with clearing the backlog - particularly as many customers think the issue has now been resolved.

In addition to the waiting time for ships at anchor, additional carrier costs are expected to include more chartered ships to maintain a service; extended time in port working the vessel; quay side rent increases; demurrage charges not collected from shippers; exports not loaded and therefore no backhaul revenue; empty boxes not re-positioned; and missed port calls.

Drewry notes that despite the general congestion chaos in the last quarter of 2014, Matson was one carrier that was largely unaffected. "It may well be that [it] has struck the winning formula for these exceptional circumstances –being constant and predictable to make life easier for terminals. By operating a reliable and independent service they are untroubled by the demands or operational weaknesses of service partners.

"In addition, Matson's ship sizes have remained the same (averaging 2,800 TEU) whereas its bigger competitors have dramatically upgraded; causing peaks the terminals have struggled to cope with," it explains.

Drewry estimates the average vessel turnaround at the Los Angeles port complex during the fourth quarter was 5.25 days – double the time since last August. APL was one of the least affected while OOCL, CSCL, NYK and Hanjin were particularly hit – possibly because of their larger size.

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