Biden, Ports, Unions, and Retailers Promise to Save the Supply Chain

cargo ship

U.S. President Joe Biden held a meeting today, Oct. 13, with retailers, port leaders, and unions to discuss how to solve the many supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In conjunction with this meeting, the White House released a statement outlining their efforts in easing the severity of this crisis.

“The pandemic has led to a surge in e-commerce, with sales increasing 39 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2020,” the statement read. “At the same time, COVID has disrupted workers in key transportation and logistics nodes — the jobs of 1,800 Southern California port workers were disrupted because of COVID earlier this year.”

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Biden is meeting with leadership from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to discuss how to unblock the supply chain bottlenecks. These two ports are the point of entry for 40 percent of containers coming to the U.S., and are on track to reach new highs in container traffic this year.

The Port of Long beach expanded its operating hours to being 24/7 in mid-September, and the Port of Los Angeles is now joining them by adding new off-peak nighttime shifts and working hours, nearly doubling the hours that cargo will be able to move out of its docks and onto the highways. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced that its members are willing to work these extra shifts.

Large retailers also announced added efforts:

  • Walmart is increasing its use of nighttime hours, projecting it could increase throughput by as much as 50 percent over the next several weeks.
  • UPS is increasing its use of 24/7 operations and enhancing data sharing with ports, which could allow the company to move up to 20 percent more containers from the ports.
  • FedEx is combining an increase in nighttime hours with changes to trucking and rail use to increase the volume of containers it will move from the ports.
  • Samsung will move nearly 60 percent more containers out of these ports by operating 24/7 through the next 90 days.
  • The Home Depot will move up to 10 percent additional containers per week during the newly available off-peak port hours at the Ports of L.A. and Long Beach.
  • Target, which is already moving about 50 percent of its containers at night, is increasing that amount by 10 percent during the next 90 days to help ease congestion.

“Across these six companies over 3,500 additional containers per week will move at night through the end of the year,” the statement continued. “And this is just a start — these commitments provide a clear market signal to other businesses along the transportation supply chain — rails, trucks, and warehouses — that there is demand to move additional cargo at off-peak hours.”

This effort is a part of the ongoing work of the Biden-Harris Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force.

In response to this move by the White House, the National Retail Federation (NRF) issued the following statement:

“We thank President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary Buttigieg, Director Deese, and Port Envoy John Porcari for their leadership to address the ongoing global supply chain disruption. It is critically important that we all come together — business, labor, and government — to address the current issue regarding port congestion, and the long-term need to create a more reliable supply chain globally and within the United States. The retail industry greatly appreciates President Biden’s personal commitment to marshal the power of the federal government behind efforts to reduce the disruptions our members are currently facing, and retailers remain committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure consumers have access to the products and services they want and expect. NRF has been urging more focus and resources to address supply chain failures for many years, and we look forward to continued efforts that result in sustainable solutions for this growing problem.”

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