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Port Congestion Causes and Possible Solutions are Focus of FMC Report

Thursday, July 16, 2015
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Federal Maritime Commission has released a staff report entitled “U.S. Container Port Congestion & Related International Supply Chain Issues: Causes, Consequences & Challenges.” This report organizes and further develops stakeholder discussion around six major themes that emerged at the forums the FMC held at major gateway ports in 2014: investment and planning; chassis availability and related issues; vessel and terminal operations; port drayage and truck turn time; extended gate hours, PierPASS and congestion pricing; and collaboration and communication. The report addresses current and anticipated future challenges caused by congestion at U.S. port gateways and comments on the causes and effects of congestion with the objective of facilitating further discussion on potential solutions.

The report notes that in 2014 the top three U.S. container ports accounted for almost 50 percent of the nation’s containerized international trade and the top 11 accounted for over 85 percent. This concentration could help the U.S. focus resources on expanding the capacity of its most important container ports, the report notes, but it also makes the freight system more vulnerable to the sort of disruption and delays the industry experienced in the past year or so. Congestion at ports and other points in the U.S. intermodal system has become a serious risk to the relatively robust growth of the U.S. economy and its competitive position in the world economy, the report states, and addressing congestion is thus not only vital for many industrial port gateways but also of paramount national importance. Interested parties widely agree that the episodic congestion of the last two decades is certain to be repeated, perhaps with more profound consequences than those now being experienced, if investment falls behind the needs of the U.S. intermodal industry.

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