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White House taps retired general to be new port czar

Lyons has ‘a lot of work’ to cut supply chain costs, DOT’s Buttigieg cautions

A container ship leaves the Port of Los Angeles. (Photo: Port of Los Angeles)

The White House and the U.S. Department of Transportation on Friday appointed Stephen Lyons to replace John Porcari as the port and supply chain envoy for the Biden administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force.

Lyons, a retired four-star Army general, most recently led the U.S. Transportation Command, which provides cargo transportation and logistical support to the Defense Department. He takes over for Porcari, who stepped down in April, as supply chain disruptions show signs of having moved through a peak but as concerns of delays and elevated costs continue for carriers and shippers.

“Global supply chains will remain fragile as long as the pandemic continues to disrupt ports and factories around the world, and a lot of work remains to reduce shipping delays and costs for American families,” said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in announcing Lyons’ appointment Friday.

Stephen Lyons
Gen. Stephen Lyons (Credit: Department of Defense)

Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, added, “During a time of historic global supply chain challenges as a result of the pandemic, the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force and Port Envoy John Porcari helped ensure Americans could get what they need while supporting the fastest labor market recovery in history. There is nobody better to pick up this important work than retired Gen. Lyons as we continue to address these challenges and move toward sustained economic growth.”

The White House cited several steps it had taken to relieve congestion on the water and on land since creating the task force in June 2021, including the launch of a trucking action plan to recruit more drivers, pop-up container yards and a proposed data-sharing platform for shippers and carriers.

Those actions have led to a 50% drop in container dwell times at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex and a similar improvement in the number of container ships waiting to enter U.S. ports, according to the White House. “Goods are successfully being delivered to shelves and inventories excluding autos are at their highest levels in history.”

But Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Daniel Maffei pointed out that even with the progress being made, relief from supply chain congestion and a return to normalcy could take many months.

“I definitely think the worst of it will start to abate, but unfortunately it’s not going to abate all at once, it will go down in steps,” Maffei commented at a shipper conference on Thursday. “We might see the first sustained decline going into next year following this year’s holidays.”

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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.