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FMC turns supply chain initiative attention to exports

The Federal Maritime Commission on Tuesday hosted nearly 40 industry representatives to spend the next two days sharing strategic information on how to keep the export-side of the U.S. supply chain humming.

   The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) on Tuesday hosted nearly 40 representatives from the export, ocean carrier, ports, longshore labor, trucking, railroad, intermediary and warehouse industries to spend the next two days sharing strategic information on how to keep the export-side of the U.S. supply chain humming.
   The launch of the FMC Export Innovation Team is phase two of a nearly two-year effort by the agency to outline a strategy to improve national port and supply chain productivity. The first phase of the FMC initiative focused on the import supply chain and ran from May to October 2016.
   “This is not a port congestion project, it is a national supply chain project that when completed will provide an economic benefit to the nation and will make the American supply chain more competitive,” said FMC Commissioner Rebecca Dye, who was tasked by the commission last February to spearhead the initiative.
   The FMC launched the initiative in response to the gridlock experienced in many U.S. container ports in 2014 and 2015 as the ocean carriers introduced larger ships to the U.S. trades, which caused severe peaks and valleys in cargo flows. Another compounding factor was the labor dispute between management and dockworkers on the West Coast which left many carriers and shippers scrambling to find alternative ports and transport modes to get cargo delivered. 
   In response to these problems, several port authorities established working groups that included representatives from all parts of the supply chain to tackle inefficiencies and try to prevent future meltdowns. The FMC’s initiative attempts to address this issue more holistically on a national level, rather than regionally. 
   One of the key takeaways from the FMC initiative’s import teams was the need for a national seaport information portal, something that the agency has embraced.
   “We will encourage our export teams to step out of their silos to identify their needs for supply chain information, the use of which will facilitate a more harmonious, efficient supply chain operation,” Dye said.
   The group of export industry representatives were split into three groups. 
   “Our supply chain teams approach is built on two fundamental concepts: innovation and teamwork,” Dye explained. “Innovation results from creative engagement among knowledgeable individuals.
   “Small teams provide the opportunity for this interaction, in candid, give-and-take sessions,” she added. “Our export teams will continue the work of our import teams by identifying the critical information needs of supply chain actors. This critical, actionable information, delivered at the right time, will improve our American supply chain visibility and performance.”
    “I feel that collaboration on mutual topics of interest and concern is important not just for ocean carriers, but for all the stakeholders,” Michael Wilson, senior vice president of business operations at Hamburg Sud North America and a participant in the FMC’s export innovation team, told American Shipper
   “Each of the players is highly focused on a day-to-day basis on his or her area of interest and expertise,” he said. “‎Gaining perspectives from the other supply chain participants can often shed needed light on an area where one might take for granted. In the end, it helps us to build a better service product for our customers, and ultimately a more efficient and robust supply chain.”
   Dye’s goal is to complete the export portion of the Supply Chain Innovation Initiative this fall. When the teams finish their work later this year, the commission will release a full report.
   “Commerce in the 21st century depends on developing and maintaining first class information infrastructures,” she said. “We believe that seaport information infrastructure will improve the performance of our country’s freight delivery system and boost American competitiveness.”

Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.