White House: LA/Long Beach Will Ease Congestion With 24-Hour Ops

la long beach
File image courtesy AAPA

Published Oct 13, 2021 4:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

The White House is pressing America's key container ports and logistics stakeholders to speed up the supply chain for consumer goods. The unprecedented congestion at primary import-freight hubs like the twin ports of LA and Long Beach is contributing to a rising inflation rate, reducing the purchasing power of everyday citizens and eroding market sentiment on Wall Street. 

"In the ports of LA and Long Beach, which represent 40 percent of all containers that enter into the country, we’ve seen a record 30 percent increase on import and export containers in the first six months of this year, compared to last year.  And in Long Beach, a 23 percent increase," an administration official said. 

The spike is driven by heightened consumer demand as Americans shift their spending away from services (restaurants, gyms, etc.) and towards durable goods - a logical consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-driven supply chain challenges in the Asian markets that supply America's consumers have exacerbated the problem. 

Under pressure from the Biden Administration, the Port of Los Angeles will shift to 24-hour operations for the first time - an unprecedented measure intended to help clear the backlog and keep consumer goods flowing. Long Beach is expected to follow suit.

In a rare development for any seaport, the president announced the change in port policy himself in a social media message. “Today I’m announcing that the Port of LA will begin operating around the clock 24/7 to make sure Americans can get the goods they need,” Biden wrote in a tweet. “My Administration is working around the clock to move more goods faster and strengthen the resiliency of our supply chains.”

The administration is also working with stakeholders in trucking, distribution, warehousing and organized labor in an effort to ease the congestion. In a virtual roundtable convened by the White House on Wednesday, leaders from a wide variety of supply chain stakeholders pledged to shift to 24/7 operations and speed up the movement of goods. Attendees included senior representatives from the ILWU, the Teamsters, the AFL-CIO, Walmart, Fedex, Home Depot and the American Trucking Association, among many others.

"Our goal is not only to get through this immediate bottleneck, but to address the long standing weaknesses in our transportation supply chain that this pandemic has exposed," Biden said after the meeting. 

The president also used the opportunity to highlight America's overdependence on Chinese manufacturing - a perennial challenge to U.S. industrial producers, and a potential strategic liability. "Never again should we have to rely too heavily on one company or one country or one person in the world, particularly countries that don't share our values," said Biden.