July 7, 2022

Port operators: Biden’s round-the-clock operation plan won’t solve supply crunch

Amid an escalating supply chain crisis that is leading to empty shelves and product shortages across the nation, President Joe Biden recently urged ports and shipping terminals to ramp up to round-the-clock operations, but as the Washington Examiner reports, experts on the ground say that plan just won’t work.

It was earlier this month that the Biden rolled out a plan designed to ease shipping and receiving delays at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California that focused largely on broadening operations to a 24/7 schedule, as CNBC noted.

The outlet added that according to White House officials, “port operators” would bear the brunt of responsibility for paying longshoremen and other necessary staff for the expanded hours, with the idea behind the strategy being that with additional hours of operation at the ports, freight railroads, warehouses, and other shipping facilities, the bottleneck of goods sitting on container ships might begin to lessen.

But, according to the Examiner, the sort of constant operation called for by the administration is an extremely costly proposition that, in the opinion of many in the industry, is not one that port owners are interested in assuming.

Ed DeNike, president of SSA Containers, a subsidiary of Carrix, which operates three of the terminals located in Long Beach explained to the Journal of Commerce, “I don’t see how the terminals are going to be reimbursed. It’s big money.”

The Examiner further noted that under normal operating conditions, terminals remain open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., with some operation also taking place on weekdays until 3 a.m. Adding operations within that 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. window would be incredibly expensive, according to the Journal, and there is doubt about whether truckers would be willing to appear at those hours.

De Nike put things bluntly, saying, “We tell them, here is your cost. We’ll be open if someone is going to pay us,” and he added that his company has not seen sufficient interest in the expanded availability of hours to justify expanding operations, a sentiment echoed by other operators at Long Beach.

Even John Porcari of Biden’s newly-established Supply Chain Disruption Task Force had to admit that even though longer port hours of operation represent “absolutely a nationwide opportunity,” the process of achieving participation will be difficult, and there is no concrete timeline for compliance with the president’s plan.

Though Biden clearly wants to be seen as a man of action when it comes to the ever-worsening supply crunch, when his allies in the media lecture their fellow citizens to simply lower their expectations, and his own press secretary snidely mocks those who might worry about “the tragedy of the treadmill that’s delayed,” it is far from certain that any real solution – or the will to facilitate one – is on the horizon.

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