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Chunker takes chunk out of California’s container congestion

Amid California’s congestion at the ports, and with warehousing space practically nonexistent, one company has managed to source 20,000 container storage spaces along with 3 million square feet of available warehouse space out of a hat.

However, this isn’t magic. Brad Wright, CEO of Chunker, explains that he simply found storage space where no one else thought to look.

And the timing couldn’t have been better. There’s growing concern that California’s port congestion could soon be exacerbated by a potential labor impasse or strike at all its major ports, Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union contract is set to expire at the end of June. What happens in July is anyone’s guess.

The odds for a deal without drama are 50-50, according to Jim McKenna, the chief executive of the Pacific Maritime Association. “The last four contracts ended up in some sort of disruption,” he told The New York Times.

On the potential for dockworkers using a strike or work slowdown as negotiating power, Wright said, “I think history speaks for itself. They’ve always used that as a mechanism for negotiating power.

“If I were a betting person and I had all of my freight sitting down on the docks or out on those ships, I’d lean toward wanting to get it out of there as fast as I possibly could, even if it cost a little more up front. Shippers should think of Chunker’s off-dock storage solution as insurance.”

“Using Chunker is a win no matter what,” Wright added. “If some type of work slowdown or strike happens, you’ll be the ultimate hero for having thought ahead and gotten your freight out of the port. In fact, you’ll probably be doing keynote speeches for the next few years because of your forethought and preparation. And if nothing happens with the union, and all their negotiations go smoothly, you’ll still win because your goods will be out of the port already and out of the congestion.”

The multifaceted problems these port delays have caused have turned many to Chunker. The company now operates 11 sites totaling 165 acres near the ports of Southern and Northern California.

“It doesn’t matter what the property used to be,” Wright said. “All that’s needed are big, wide-open spaces.”

Three armories, a former prison site and two fairgrounds in California are the latest to join Chunker’s short-term container storage revolution, and at least 20,000 containers will be held there this year. With the addition of these state-owned facilities, Chunker is now the largest off-port container storage company in California.

Chunker’s container storage sites are safe havens from the ports, providing all the amenities that traditional facilities promise, but without the congestion and at a lower price. 

But how safe are Chunker’s container storage yards? As it turns out, really safe. Each facility is fenced, lit and has security cameras that are remotely monitored 24/7 and armed guards roaming the premises 24/7.

Despite its peculiar locations, Chunker ensures each facility offers the same amenities that a typical yard or warehouse facility offers. Wright explains its full-service capabilities include chassis loading and unloading and the ability to cherry-pick because Chunker knows a container’s exact location in three dimensions.

Chunker also wants to take care of all the truckers who come to their sites so they have a VIP Trucker’s Lounge at each one. The lounges have free food, including healthy options, and a variety of beverages ranging from hot coffee to soda and other choices. In addition there are restrooms and sofas to rest on or watch TV for a few minutes.

Chunker also has available warehouse space that can be used for transloading container cargo so that the container can be returned to the port faster and so that the goods can be on their way to their final destination faster. Wright said this is especially useful considering that shipping lines charge daily fees that can quickly add up if containers aren’t returned in time.

With a large and growing presence in California, Wright said he’s hopeful to expand the short-term container storage model to other markets in the near future. But for now, his focus is to further refine the current model.

“In addition to the state of California properties, we have five private lots owned by private individuals, and because of Chunker’s marketplace model, we’re getting more all the time,” Wright said. “People call us up and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this space down here. Can I turn it into a container yard too?’”

Click for more FreightWaves content by Jack Glenn.