FMC Convenes Port Congestion Panel

File image courtesy Kemplon Engineering

By MarEx 2016-05-04 20:56:30

On Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission announced a new collaborative summit intended to create solutions to congestion problems at American ports. 

The Supply Chain Innovation Team Initiative, led by Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye, began its work May 3 in Washington, D.C. The two day meeting will bring together leaders from 34 organizations; its Innovation Leaders include the Port of Los Angeles, MSC, MOL, Maersk, APM, Walmart, IKEA, and BNSF Railway, among others. Advisors include MIT's Center for Transportation and Logistics, SUNY Maritime, Texas A&M, and multiple trade and industry organizations. 

"The innovation team approach focuses on obstacles to the smooth flow of cargo in our $980 billion annual export and import containerized trade," said Dye. "We are not offering an ‘FMC solution’ to congestion-related problems. Rather, we are acting as a catalyst for committed teams of major company leaders as they exchange ideas and debate creative proposals for supply chain improvements. The nonpublic, small team effort is conducive to robust engagement among team members."

Their work is intended to augment efforts at specific port authorities: many are attempting to tackle delays, which affect shippers, carriers, terminals and drayage operators alike. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, affected for many years by drayage delays, has a Port Performance Task Force, formed in late 2013; it is also about to commission a 30-year master plan that is intended to guide development and alleviate congestion issues. 

A forum convened by FMC last year identified multiple hurdles, including cargo volume growth; ever-larger vessels discharging large numbers of containers at once; ocean carrier alliances, whose vessel sharing agreements can increase inter-terminal shoreside container moves; delayed ship arrivals; chassis shortages and related delays; limited gate hours; and labor availability. 

"This is not a ‘quick fix’ to complex, systemic supply chain congestion problems, but I am confident the approach we’re taking will produce beneficial results," Dye said. "We expect our teams to move beyond a discussion of problems to a plan of action. Our team members are experienced and talented, and I have great confidence that they’ll rise to the challenge."