Port Congestion: A 'Most Critical and Relevant' Trade-Related Issue - Global Trade Magazine
  July 23rd, 2015 | Written by

Port Congestion: A ‘Most Critical and Relevant’ Trade-Related Issue

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  • The Federal Maritime Commission report identifies six issues that “need to be addressed” to improve port performance.
  • FMC: Improvements at U.S. ports lags behind European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK.
  • FMC: “Questions remain about whether container yards are able to cope with the greater volume of containers.”

Resolving congestion at U.S. container ports is “in many ways today’s most critical and relevant trade-related issue,” according to a new staff report on port infrastructure compiled by the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC).

The 83-page FMC report identifies the six most discussed issues that “need to be addressed” in an effort to improve the nation’s port performance, namely capital investment and planning; chassis availability; vessel and terminal operations; drayage and truck turn time; implementation of extended hours/PierPASS; and collaboration and communication between stakeholders.

The report, based on the feedback from public forums held in the second half of 2014 at the ports of Los Angeles, Baltimore, Charleston, and New Orleans, determined that improvements at U.S. ports currently lags behind European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK.

“Questions remain about whether container yard and landside facilities are able to cope with the greater volume of containers being discharged from the bigger ships deployed by ocean carriers,” the report said.

Also at issue is whether ocean carriers “are prepared to pay for the additional resources required to handle these vessels and whether terminal operators have the labor flexibility to clear cargo backlogs.”

Commenting on the report’s findings, FMC Chairman Mario Cordero said, “International trade relies on our nation’s ports, therefore port congestion is a paramount question at the international supply chain level.”

Infrastructure development, he said, “is at the core of the discussion, however, other factors must be addressed in the near term to ensure an efficient and reliable international ocean transportation system and the relevant supply chain.”

Cordero added that the agency “is considering establishing an additional advisory committee, led by industry experts, which would work with the Commission to identify and help resolve congestion at container ports.”

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