White House Turns Focus to Supply Chain Problems
The supply chain issues have escalated all the way to the White House and this week President Joe Biden unveiled efforts and initiatives to relieve bottlenecks, including those affecting the tire industry at the all-important Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
One big step is that both of those ports — which are the point of entry for 40% of all containers into the U.S. — are moving towards round-the-clock operations. They are the two largest ports in the country, and combined make up the ninth-largest port complex in the world.
The Port of Long Beach has already transitioned to the 24/7 schedule as of about three weeks ago, a senior administration official told reporters.
In September the ports announced they were taking steps to move more cargo by expanding the hours trucks can pick up and drop off containers. Both also said they had called on their marine terminal operators to work to maximize the use of “all available gate hours, especially night gates, to reduce congestion."
Those were among the first steps toward a round-the-clock supply chain.
But adding hours of service at the ports requires workers, and the administration has also worked with the labor union that represents employees at Los Angeles and Long Beach. The White House says the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has said its members are willing to work the extra shifts.
As part of its focus on the supply chain, the White House also announced commitments made by private companies that support the effort. Those include pledges from Walmart and Target Corp. to move more containers through the ports at night, and similar promises from UPS and FedEx.
The efforts are part of the Biden-Harris Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, which was launched in June.
Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said in a statement that "Operational details are being discussed and worked out with the supply chain stakeholders. The significance of today's announcement is the commitment from industry leaders responsible for moving goods on behalf of American consumers and businesses to open up the capacity needed to deliver. It's a call to action for others to follow.
“We have heard directly from the President, the Vice President, Secretary Buttigieg, National Economic Council Director Deese, and Port Envoy Porcari. We have a lot of work ahead. The Port of LA is called America's Port because cargo we handle reaches every corner of the country. In the days ahead, we are committed to continuing to be the convener to ensure the supply chain delivers for the American people."
On Oct. 13, the day of the president’s announcement, the Port of Los Angeles had 27 vessels at anchor and 18 at berth.
Through the first three quarters of 2021, total volume of shipments, as measured in 20-foot equivalent units, totaled 5.17 million TEUs, up from 3.45 million TEUs for the first three quarters of 2020. The volume as of the end of September for 2021 has already eclipsed the total-year volume of just under 5 million TEUs in 2020.