When a delayed shipment of supplies stalled work on one of California’s largest renewable energy projects and threatened the jobs of 500 unionized construction workers, the Port of Long Beach’s Commercial Operations Bureau leapt into action.
The national supply chain was choked by a pandemic-induced cargo surge that disrupted the flow of critical equipment to Rosendin Electric amid a $750 million installation of solar panels spanning 5 square miles in eastern Riverside County capable of generating enough renewable energy to power 179,000 homes annually.
Electrical materials required for the project were stored inside cargo containers dwelling up to two weeks on marine terminals and aboard shipping vessels waiting to enter the Port of Long Beach.
The renewable energy project came to a halt just before Thanksgiving 2021 due to the shortage of supplies, resulting in the temporary layoff of 300 electricians represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 440 and another 200 ironworkers represented by the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Local 433.
The bustling job site dwindled down to a skeleton crew of 20 workers during the lengthy wait for supplies.
“You’re talking about a human factor of losing jobs when you don’t have the equipment on site, so I knew we had to jump on this immediately,” said Tommy Faavae, a business development agent for IBEW Local 11 and the National Electrical Contractors Association in Los Angeles.
With no shipment visibility tools nor experience to track the cargo, Rosendin Electric and the IBEW turned to the Port of Long Beach for assistance. Executive Director Mario Cordero and Deputy Executive Director Dr. Noel Hacegaba directed the Port’s Commercial Operations Bureau to track down the vital shipments for the solar facility in Riverside County, in addition to components for an upcoming project in Fresno County.
A flurry of phone calls, texts and emails were exchanged between the Port, Rosendin Electric and IBEW Local 11, resulting in the successful locating of more than 100 cargo containers carrying the materials for both renewable energy projects.
The shipments were prioritized for dispatch from the docks to Rosendin’s job sites, allowing the workforce of 500 skilled electricians and ironworkers to resume construction at the Riverside County facility by mid-January and meet a deadline to complete the project in May. Workers were not affected at the Fresno County site, where construction started on time in mid-April.
“We owe the Port of Long Beach a debt of gratitude for knowing what’s at stake here and getting organized labor back to work to complete these large-scale solar projects,” Faavae said. “If we did nothing, we’d probably still be waiting for the materials to arrive.”
As an environmental steward, the Port of Long Beach supports renewable energy projects as part of its 2005 Green Port Policy and 2013 Energy Policy.
“We will always do our part to support projects that enhance air quality and move our state closer toward using greener energy sources,” said Long Beach Harbor Commission President Steven Neal. “Delivering top-notch customer service during this unprecedented time will cement our spot as a leading gateway for trans-Pacific trade.”
The delivery delay and work stoppage could have been avoided if a real-time cargo tracking tool was available at the time.
The Port earlier this year announced the development of the Supply Chain Information Highway data solution, aimed at providing greater cargo visibility, connectivity and predictability. The service is free to all users and delivers data for shippers and other stakeholders to integrate into their own systems, track cargo and allot resources. Authorized users can also use it in their own dashboards to predict cargo arrival, plan equipment deployment and improve efficiencies.
“The Supply Chain Information Highway allows users to navigate the location of their containers in order to make operational decisions, plan resources and minimize delays,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. “We are confident this tool will help speed the supply chain and set a digital foundation for improving goods movement.”
The Port of Long Beach is one of the world’s premier seaports, a gateway for trans-Pacific trade and a trailblazer in goods movement and environmental stewardship. As the second-busiest container seaport in the United States, the Port handles trade valued at more than $200 billion annually and supports 2.6 million trade-related jobs across the nation, including 575,000 in Southern California.