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Feds to provide $230 million to speed cargo through ports

Shelves stocked, packages on porches, Porcari tells supply chain task force meeting

Despite reports to the contrary, shelves are stocked for the holidays.

That was the message hammered home on Wednesday, three days before Christmas, by President Joe Biden’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force.

“We’re making real and sustained progress at the ports — there’s increased fluidity and velocity in the goods movement,” John Porcari, the task force’s port envoy, told the president and other meeting attendees at the White House. Container dwell times at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been cut by 125% and 140%, respectively, over the past month, he said.

The improvement has been aided by ocean carrier CMA CGM opening its terminal gates to 24/7 operations, and offering a $100/container incentive to intermodal truckers and importers to move containers off its dock within eight days. Porcari also anticipates that the number of containers moving through “pop-up” inland container yards such as the operation recently started by the Georgia Ports Authority to take pressure off marine docks will grow to approximately 500,000 per year.

“The net result is the shelves are stocked and packages are on porches,” Porcari said.

To keep up the momentum, the Department of Transportation will announce on Thursday $230 million in Port Infrastructure Development grants for 25 projects in 19 states to expand ports and increase cargo throughput.

“It is sorely needed and is a crucial step in repositioning America’s competitive posture in global trade,” Chris Connor, president and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities, commented at the meeting.

FedEx [NYSE: FDX] founder and CEO Fred Smith told the task force that his company moved 100 million packages on the first weekend after Thanksgiving, the result of an aggressive expansion program that added 14.4 million square feet of sorting capacity.

“The supply chain issues are not all solved, but there’s a lot of effort underway to solve them and we’re optimistic people will have a good peak season. Most of Santa Claus’ products will be delivered to the consumers, and retailers have done a great job of stocking their shelves. We think the peak season is going to be a good one.”

Tackling supply chain disruption — along with working to lower gas prices and improving consumers’ household budgets using provisions within his Build Back Better agenda — is a three-prong approach to keeping inflation in check, Biden said at the meeting.


Watch: Shippers shocked by high prices, poor service (11/2/21)


A fact sheet released by the White House before Wednesday’s meeting pointed out that when cargo sits on docks for extended periods, bottlenecks worsen, goods cannot make it to stores, and consumer prices rise. The administration, therefore, will be “cracking down on delays and shining a light on profiteering,” caused by ocean carriers, the document stated.

“The price of shipping a container between Asia and the West Coast has fallen by more than 25% since its peak in September,” according to the White House. 

“Nevertheless, the price of shipping remains elevated and, as the ocean carriers report profits nine times larger than a year ago, the President looks forward to working with Congress on bipartisan legislation to strengthen the Federal Maritime Commission.”

The legislation, known as the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021, recently passed the House and awaits companion legislation in the Senate. 

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.