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Secretary Pete Buttigieg Hosts Roundtable On Port Congestion, Supply Chain Disruptions at Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

Friday, July 16, 2021

Washington, DC- As part of the Administration’s ongoing work addressing supply chain disruptions, U.S Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg hosted a virtual roundtable on congestion at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Thursday, with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Dr. Jewel Bronaugh; Deputy Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg, Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) Chairman Daniel Maffei; Acting Administrator of the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) Lucinda Lessley; Acting Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administrator (FRA) Amit Bose; Acting Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Meera Joshi; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia; and key stakeholders at the ports and throughout our Nation’s supply chain. They discussed the many consequences of increased congestion and examined opportunities to ease the movement of cargo and improve information sharing at the ports.  

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach together serve as major gateways to international trade. Approximately 40 percent of all containerized freight flowing through the United States arrives or departs through these ports.  

“For the past year, those who work at our ports, including our longshore workers, terminal operators, and truckers, have stepped up to keep freight moving and our economy running,” said Secretary Buttigieg. “For our economy to fully recover, we now need our vital supply chains to operate smoothly and without avoidable congestion. Today’s conversation represents a chance for us to come together and find solutions for American consumers, workers, and small businesses.” 

“The lingering impact of the pandemic has placed challenges on agriculture shipping and has left our farmers struggling to get their products to willing buyers,” said Deputy Secretary Bronaugh. “We have an opportunity to build back our markets better than before and ensure that more U.S. products are successfully being sent around the world. Today’s roundtable gives me hope that we will seek solutions that will not only benefit agriculture, but every sector of the supply chain.” 

While the Biden-Harris Administration continues to believe supply chain disruptions are transitory, the Administration is focused on addressing these challenges using all of the tools at its disposal. Last month, the President announced the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force to bring the full capacity of the federal government to address near-term supply/demand mismatches. Today’s roundtable is part of that effort. 

 Participants identified multiple factors contributing to the congestion at the San Pedro Bay ports, but agreed that the situation is critical and committed to identifying and working toward solutions to increase throughput at the port in an environmentally sensitive way. Many port complexes are moving record number of containers. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach spoke about have responding to the extraordinary surge in demand that has taken place over the past few months. On July 15, 18 containerships were at anchor in San Pedro Bay, down from more than 40 ships at the beginning of the year. But several participants expressed that there are additional steps that can be taken in the near- and medium-term to help further alleviate congestion and speed the movement of cargo. 

Shippers also raised concerns regarding the assessment of detention and demurrage (fees charged when a container dwells for an extended period of time either inside or outside of a terminal) but expressed gratitude that the Presidents’ Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy addressed this issue and urged continued action by the Federal Maritime Commission.  

During today’s event, the Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA), David S. Kim, announced that, following the dialogue initiated by Secretary Buttigieg, CalSTA would be organizing a forum to examine options to improve cargo movement at and around the ports in late September. He also announced that CalSTA would be conducting extensive public outreach regarding this issue in advance of the planned forum.   

In addition to today’s roundtable, the Department of Transportation is engaging regularly with stakeholders to address port congestion. DOT leaders have met with the World Shipping Council, representatives and leading companies from the National Retail Federation, Commissioners of the FMC, labor unions, and many stakeholders throughout our entire supply chain to discuss current challenges in cargo movement, including delays in the movement of U.S. exports, detention and demurrage practices (fees charged when a container dwells for an extended period of time either inside or outside of a terminal), and opportunities to improve data sharing.