RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Thousands of servicemembers and civilians will have to wait even longer for the delivery of their personal vehicles under a new agreement between the Defense Department and contractor International Auto Logistics.
In some cases, the agreement -- implemented in early December between the government and International -- gives the contractor more time to deliver servicemembers' vehicles to their new duty stations.
International has come under heavy fire since taking over the delivery contract last summer; in particular, it has been criticized for long waits for vehicle delivery.
Under the agreement, shipping times between the continental U.S. and Europe would increase the most. Data provided last week by DoD Transportation Command show the Brunswick, Ga.-based company now has an average of about 19 more days to ship a vehicle from Germany to the continental U.S., 16 more days from England, and four more days from Italy.
The actual delivery standard depends on where the vehicle was shipped to in the United States; International now has an average of about 60 days to ship to anywhere in the continental U.S. from bases in Europe.
The increase in delivery times was based partly on changes to the ocean shipping market, according to Transcom. For example, the number of privately owned U.S.-flagged ships -- to which International is contractually required to give preference -- has fallen to 179 in 2014 from 198 in 2012, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration.
International also is required to give preference to U.S.-flagged vessels participating in a special agreement with the Defense Department, known as the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement. That cuts the number of qualified companies to 56.
Ken Quinn, International's chief financial officer, said ocean carriers make changes to their shipping schedules for commercial reasons, which can further complicate the company's ability to meet deadlines.
"We're operating under realistic terms now ... this is what the commercial market is today for transportation," he said.
While the company is touting improved delivery times in recent months -- Quinn said International is making 95 percent of full-service deliveries on schedule -- shipments to and from the U.S. West Coast could still face delays.
West Coast ports have experienced a shipping logjam in recent months, a situation made worse by a weekend shutdown at several ports due to a labor dispute. Col. Martin Chapin, the head of a Transcom team that oversees International, said in January the government had given the company a temporary extension of two weeks to deliver any vehicles going through the port of Los Angeles.
International hasn't been given extra time on all of its routes, however.
Shipping to and from some locations where the military assists the company in shipping vehicles, known as partial-service locations, are seeing a decrease in the time International has to ship vehicles. Under the agreement, International now has an average of about 13 fewer days for partial-service moves from Alaska to the lower 48 states, 59 fewer to ship from Australia and 34 fewer from Japan.
Chapin said servicemembers get the same entitlement as before to a rental vehicle if their delivery date is missed.