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UNION PACIFIC WOES STALL PORT BUSINESS.

Byline: Howard S. Abramson Bloomberg News

Stacks of freight containers cover the Long Beach docks, while ships the length of three football fields loaded with electronics, clothes and other products line the mouth of the harbor, awaiting berths.

The Port of Long Beach, the busiest in the nation, and the adjacent Port of Los Angeles have joined manufacturers, mines and agricultural shippers across the U.S. waylaid by Union Pacific Corp.'s railroad delays - at a total cost of more than $100 million a month.

``Our entire operation is totally dependent on a smooth-running railroad system,'' said Don Wylie, Long Beach's director of trade and maritime services. ``The system came to a halt'' last month.

Service breakdowns this spring at Union Pacific followed its acquisition of Southern Pacific Rail Corp. Crew shortages and too few locomotives caused backups for East Coast utilities, Midwest grain sellers and Gulf Coast chemical plants, to name a few. The delays, combined with an increase in container traffic, paralyzed the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports.

Though rail service improved in November, operations won't return to acceptable levels for at least a month, said John Cushing, marketing manager for the Port of Los Angeles. Delays are running about two days beyond normal turnaround times at his port.

Wylie said he expects delays for six months.``We're doing much better than we were'' in moving West Coast freight, Union Pacific spokesman John Bromley said.

The Surface Transportation Board, which is overseeing Union Pacific's attempts to end the logjam, is to hold a second hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to review the railroad's progress.

Officials at both ports told a California Public Utilities Commission meeting last week that at least 16 ships that move only containers were diverted to other West Coast ports because of the railroad logjam. Los Angeles port officials said they lost more than $5 million in fees as a result.
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 29, 1997
Words:319
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