US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack have sent a letter to 12 of the world’s leading ocean carriers, urging them “to help mitigate disruptions to agricultural shippers of US exports and relieve supply chain disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic by restoring reciprocal treatment of imports and exports and improving service,” according to a statement released by the two departments.
They are calling on the carriers to more fully utilize available terminal capacity on the West Coast, noting that the Port of Oakland, Port of Portland and other West Coast ports have excess capacity to alleviate supply chain congestion.
They said, as well: “It is also critical that we critical that we restore reciprocal treatment of imports and exports that is inherent in trade. Shippers of US grown agricultural commodities and goods have seen reduced service, ever changing 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.”
The letter was sent to CMA CGM America LLC, COSCO North America, Evergreen Shipping Agency, Hapag-Lloyd AG North America, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company USA, Maersk Inc., Ocean Network Express, OOCL (USA) Inc., SM Line, Wan Hai Lines America, Yang Ming Marine Transport Company and Zim American Integrated Shipping Services.