December 20, 2021

Supply chain issues: Feds urge Western ocean carriers to resume full activity

There have been a couple of recent initiatives by the U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Agriculture designed to help alleviate ongoing workforce and supply chain challenges.

On Dec. 16, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and White House National Economic Director Brian Deese hosted a roundtable at the White House with trucking industry leaders. The discussion focused on efforts to retain and recruit new drivers and address other longstanding workforce challenges. 

Additionally, Secretary Buttigieg and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack issued a letter urging the world’s leading ocean carriers to help mitigate disruptions to agricultural shippers of U.S. exports and relieve supply chain disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic by restoring reciprocal treatment of imports and exports and improving service.

A portion of the letter stated:

“The Port of Oakland, Port of Portland, and other West Coast ports have excess capacity to alleviate supply chain congestion. Particularly, the suspension of service by ocean carriers at the Port of Oakland earlier this year has required agricultural exporters to truck their harvests to the already heavily congested Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. While ships must dwell for several days in San Pedro Bay to berth at Southern California ports, other West Coast ports are less congested and berths more readily available. Restoration of service would not only ease the congestion at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in Southern California but would allow the prompt export of American goods overseas and ease the strain on the supply of long-haul truckers necessary to transport goods from Northern California to Los Angeles and Long Beach.

“It is also critical that we restore reciprocal treatment of imports and exports that is inherent in trade. Shippers of U.S. grown agricultural commodities and goods have seen reduced service, everchanging return dates, and unfair fees as containers have short-circuited the usual pathways and been rushed to be exported empty. This imbalance is not sustainable and contributes to the logjam of empty containers clogging ports. The poor service and refusal to serve customers when the empty containers are clearly available is unacceptable and, if not resolved quickly, may require further examination and action by the Federal Maritime Commission.”

United Fresh response

The United Fresh Produce Association released the following statement:

“United Fresh supports continued efforts by the Biden Administration to address the challenges impacting our West Coast ports that are vital to the fresh produce supply chain. As Secretary Buttigieg and Vilsack say clearly in their letter, ‘The poor service and refusal to serve customers when the empty containers are clearly available is unacceptable.’ For both those engaged in imports or exports, the current situation is untenable. That is why United Fresh has also lent its support to the Ocean Shipping Reform Act which recently passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. 

“In addition, United Fresh is encouraged by Secretary Buttigieg’s collaboration with the trucking industry to find solutions to help address labor challenges to ensure we have a workforce to feed our country and ensure that American consumers have access to our industry’s bounty of fresh produce. We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and Congress to address these challenges throughout our supply chain.”




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