Seroka: Information flow vital for ocean container moves

Water may not be the most vital element to U.S. ports’ success. Perhaps it’s a cloud, if you will.

“We are calling for a nationwide port community system. We need to be able to get containers to our export market, to our ag co-ops and many others and match them up with rail and truck services, the international ships and reintroduce us to our overseas customers. We will be able to help the American economy reemerge as long as we have a coordinated system of efforts through one screen,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka told the Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC) during a virtual conference this week.

Seroka provided some background on the Port of LA’s use of technology.

“On March 31, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti named me chief logistics officer of the city concurrent with my role as port director here in LA. We created Logistics Victory Los Angeles [LoVLA], and the idea is to expedite medical cargo through our port and LAX airport and get this personal protective equipment to our front-line medical workers and hospitals. We began with a direct manufacturer relationship with the Honeywell Corporation, who will build 24 million N95 masks for us over the next two years, giving us certainty on delivery for our hospitals, the ability to be only six hours down the 10 freeway for delivery and at a price point no one has seen,” he said. 

Although Garcetti credited Seroka for brokering a “lifesaving purchase agreement” during the coronavirus pandemic, the port chief credited technology in his remarks to the AgTC on Wednesday.

“All of this work with LoVLA is underpinned by information technology. We along with our partners at Wabtec have created the Medical Optimizer as a plug-in to the nation’s only port community system, the Port Optimizer. It begins with demand signals from our hospitals, following the order cycle process all the way through to fulfillment. This execution platform not only enhances visibility in transit domestically, internationally, air and ocean, but it also creates an exception-management portfolio that we haven’t seen yet.”

The Port Optimizer was developed to provide online access to terminal and container information to trucking and logistics companies. By the middle of last year, Seroka was suggesting ways to increase its reach, including the wireless tracking of chassis at the port to provide better inventory management.

Seroka said best practices learned through the launch of the Medical Optimizer could be applied to the transportation of ag-related products. 

“The product is scalable. I’m very interested in having a national conversation about standards for information sharing,” Seroka said. “I think it’s a necessity right now for us to grow in the stage of global competitiveness for our supply chain. We’ve seen where it has broken down, we’ve seen what this pandemic has done to us and I believe we have the ability to make a real difference here.”