In a recent interview on Odd Lots, a Bloomberg podcast, the White House port envoy John Porcari described the Biden administration’s approach to tackling congestion at the San Pedro Bay ports. Communication and collaboration are at the heart of the strategy.
“The way we have operationalized this,” he said, “is that we have calls three times per week and we have everybody on those calls: the ocean carriers, terminal operators, the railroads, trucking companies, the Federal Maritime Commission, the Surface Transportation Board, the leadership for both ports – everyone who plays a role in the goods movement chain – and we literally are fostering real-time conversations.
“These are parts of the supply chain that have not talked to each other much and certainly have not exchanged data. So that honest broker role [taken on by the Biden administration] is a crucial one in unlocking underlying operational issues and pushing hard for the kind of collaboration that you’re actually seeing in the port of Los Angeles and Long Beach right now where goods movement is much more fluid than it was six to eight weeks ago.”
Putting the players together to understand “each other’s pressures, motivations and what they were doing” has helped the parties begin to share information “on an ad hoc basis,” said Porcari. “In the longer term, we want to make sure they are more systematically providing transparent data throughout the system to the benefit of all the private-sector companies that run the goods supply chain.”
“The whole process has been bifurcated into looking into short-term operational changes and longer-term, more-fundamental changes that will make for a more-efficient private-sector goods-movement chain,” said Porcari. “Most of these operational changes, both on dock and further inland, work at the margins. But the fact is those margins add up and, if you keep working this, you get more and more in operational improvements. That’s what you’ve been seeing the last couple of weeks where throughput is much better at the two ports.”