LOS ANGELES (CNS) — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Tuesday that the recent reduction in containers lingering at the Port of Los Angeles marks an "early but a very promising sign" that efforts by port officials and the Biden administration to mitigate cargo backlogs are working.
Buttigieg held a virtual discussion with Port of LA Executive Director Gene Seroka about the recent supply chain disruptions that have caused long delays at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden on Monday.
"As so many of us know, decades of under-investment in our supply chain infrastructure, combined with unprecedented consumer demand ... and of course, a global pandemic, [are] all combining to put our supply chains to the test," Buttigieg said.
In an effort to mitigate the disruptions, he said the administration would be announcing within the next 45 days a $230 million investment for U.S. ports through the existing Port Infrastructure Development Grant Program. He added that the administration will launch within the next 90 days a new round of that program's funding provided through the new infrastructure package, which reserved $17 billion for ports.
Biden announced on Oct. 13 that the Port of Los Angeles would begin operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week as part of a push from the White House to clear supply chain disruptions threatening the holiday shopping season and slowing the nation's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Major shippers and retailers, including Walmart, FedEx, UPS, Samsung, The Home Depot and Target, agreed to speed up operations to clear cargo out of the ports and free up more space on the docks.
Yet more than a month later, the 24/7 operation at the port has not been fully implemented.
"First of all, let's recognize it's of course not flipping a switch. There are so many players even just on the grounds of the port," Buttigieg said regarding the transition.
Seroka said the port has generally operated about 19 hours a day, with flex hours implemented when the cargo surge began.
"While offering the 24/7 capability here at the port, it's an effort to get this entire orchestra of supply chain players to get on the same calendar," Seroka said, adding that many importers have been slow to change their schedule.
While operations haven't fully transitioned to 24/7, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced on Monday that their new "Container Excess Dwell Fee" on companies whose containers linger at marine terminals would be delayed until Nov. 22 due to "noticeable progress" made reducing the number of import containers at the terminal.
The fee was announced on Oct. 25 as one of several efforts to speed the processing of cargo at the San Pedro port complex and eliminate a backlog of ships trying to deliver merchandise.
Buttigieg said it was an "early but a very promising sign." He added that the U.S. Department of Transportation is working to be "as creative as we can" to address urgent supply chain issues and lay the groundwork for structural changes to improve the flow of goods in the future.