BNSF loosens shipping embargo on westbound shipments to California
BNSF Railway, one of the largest freight railroad networks in North America, is loosening its embargo for some westbound traffic moving to destinations in California due to recent gains in speed of service across its southern region. However, the measure will remain in place in August, whereas it was previously scheduled to expire on July 31, 2022.
The company announced the embargo at the end of June, explaining to customers in a service advisory issued at the time, that it was experiencing a sharp increase in congestion throughout Southern California due to several severe weather events concurrent with high levels of traffic seeking to move through the region.
BNSF said the embargo would impact automotive shipments, as well as specific agricultural and industrial commodities. However, intermodal shipments, which were being managed through alternate means, would not be affected.
In a service advisory issued on 26 July, BNSF noted that it has seen decreased congestion through Southern California and improved network conditions. “Incremental progress has been made in velocity across our Southern Region, with our most recent 7-day train velocity reaching a 90-day high. Improved conditions allowed us to issue 30% more permits for the next seven-day period starting Thursday, July 28, and we are positioned to build on positive momentum going into August.
“As we enter the next phase of our service recovery, we must proactively work together to improve the congestion in California by continuing the embargo in August”, it said. “BNSF will continue to carefully review and consider customer circumstances and will increase the number of permits issued weekly as network conditions improve.”
‘Mitigating overfilled pipelines
BNSF continued: “We will maintain our focus in the weekly permit review process on the number of shipments already in the pipeline headed to California customer destinations and work to mitigate overfilled pipelines while allowing railcars to flow where shortages might exist.”
The company added: “Additionally, BNSF will continually reassess network conditions and provide updates on the status of this embargo and our progress in generating improved service.”
Partnership with seaport alliance
Meanwhile, in a separate development, BNSF has entered into a partnership with the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) to develop a new rail hub at the Port of Tacoma to meet increased intermodal demand in the greater Seattle region and unlock capacity. The new Tacoma South facility is part of a joint effort announced in March 2022 between J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. and BNSF to substantially improve capacity in the intermodal marketplace.
The new domestic intermodal facility will accommodate more than 50,000 annual container lifts and complement BNSF’s current domestic intermodal facility in Tukwila, serving NWSA’s Seattle Harbour.
New Tacoma-Chicago service
In mid-August 2022, BNSF will launch a direct container-only joint service with J.B. Hunt between its Tacoma South facility and Chicago. “The new service will provide greater network and facility efficiency for BNSF while increasing container capacity and chassis availability for J. B. Hunt,” the company said.