Background

A final report from the Federal Maritime Commission’s supply chain innovation teams concludes that greater visibility of critical information across the domestic freight delivery system is the one operational innovation that would most increase U.S. international supply chain performance.

The report finds that the lack of direct customer relationships between actors in the commercial supply chain (e.g., shippers and marine terminals) impedes problem solving. In addition, the lack of mutual commitment or “skin in the game” is an impediment to realizing the full potential from those customer relationships that do exist; e.g., in service contracting and export container availability. For example, one recommendation proposes a premium customer option that would solve the dual problems of export container availability and carrier booking integrity by increasing the mutual customer commitments of carriers and exporters.

More broadly, however, the report determines that international supply chains can be made more efficient and resilient by providing access to critical information for all actors. In a December 2016 interim report the FMC’s teams found that most supply chain obstacles are created from poor information transmission, inaccurate information, or information unavailable at the right time. The final report states that access to accurate, timely, critical information (not maximum data) will compensate for supply chain complexity and promote behavioral self-correction in the system.

Toward this end, the teams support the concept of a national seaport information portal that would display standardized, critical information via dashboards that are customizable, real-time, and secure. The goal of such a portal would be to change (and possibly harmonize) the operational behavior of actors in the commercial freight delivery system and increase systemic efficiency and performance. The report notes that the port of Los Angeles is currently conducting a pilot project to improve the visibility of key supply chain information and that the FMC will examine the pilot’s results in evaluating its potential to become a national seaport information portal.

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