The Biden administration announced Oct. 13 that port authorities and private sector companies are taking additional steps to address cargo transportation bottlenecks stemming from unprecedented import surges, labor shortages, production slowdowns, and other factors. The White House said these bottlenecks are slowing shipments of everything from “toys, appliances, bicycles, and furniture that Americans purchased online or at their local small business” to “pieces and parts that are sent to U.S. factories for our workers to assemble into products.”
According to a White House press release, the port of Long Beach expanded to 24/7 operations in mid-September and the port of Los Angeles is now joining it by adding new off-peak night-time shifts and weekend hours, nearly doubling the hours that cargo will be able to move off the docks and onto highways. Concurrently, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said its members are willing to work those extra shifts, which will add capacity to put toward clearing existing backlogs. Senior administration officials pointed out that these two ports represent 40 percent of all cargo containers that enter the U.S. and saw a record 30 percent increase in import and export containers during the first half of 2021.
Now, the press release said, private businesses along the supply chain need to expand their operations as well. Several large retailers and transportation companies have announced commitments to do that, including significant increases in their use of night-time hours, enhanced data sharing with ports, and changes to trucking and rail use to increase the volume of containers moved from the ports.
The White House said these commitments “provide a clear market signal to the other businesses along the transportation supply chain—rails, trucks, and warehouses—that there is demand to move additional cargo at off-peak hours.” As a result, federal officials will work during a “90-day sprint to the end of the year” to “help more businesses access these expanded hours, and move the rest of the supply chain towards 24/7 operations.”
President Biden added that his administration will also work “to address the longstanding weaknesses in our transportation supply chain that this pandemic has exposed.” Prior to this crisis “we cheered … the focus on lean, efficient supply chains,” he said, but now “we need to take the longer view … that invests in building greater resilience to withstand the kind of shocks we’ve seen over and over, year in and year out,” including extreme weather, climate change, cyberattacks, and other disruptions. Biden specifically mentioned measures such as improving domestic capacity to produce critical products; increasing investment in “ports, highways, rail systems that sorely need upgrading;” lowering the carbon emissions of maritime, freight, and trucking companies; and “creating and supporting good-paying [supply chain] jobs so folks want to stay in these jobs.”
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg is offering clients the opportunity to participate in a grassroots advocacy campaign seeking both immediate relief and longer-term solutions to supply chain problems. This campaign will (1) advocate with federal agencies to devise policies that will provide real benefits to traders, (2) lobby Congress to encourage legislation or regulation against exorbitant detention and demurrage fees, and (3) identify other solutions that ensure availability and access to instruments of international commerce, including shipping containers.
For more information on participating in this campaign, please contact Ned Steiner at (202) 730-4970 or via email.
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