White House enlists transportation veteran to help break traffic jams at nation’s ports

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The new Biden administration port envoy is coming on board at a time when supply chains across the country have been disrupted by the pandemic and a record number of ships are stranded near Seattle and other ports on the coast Where is.

The White House said on Friday it had brought in a transportation veteran to serve as the new “envoy” to the country’s ports. The new envoy, John D. Porcari, was previously Assistant Secretary for Transportation in the Obama administration. He was an adviser to President Joe Biden before his inauguration, and some union leaders had hoped he could be chosen as transport secretary.

In the role of envoy, Porcari will work with a White House task force and the Department of Transportation to help move goods freely across oceans and across the country. The pandemic has resulted in phased shutdowns of factories and ports around the world, disrupting finely calibrated supply chains, slowing shipments and contributing to higher prices in the United States.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., Key links to Asia, have been hit particularly hard with ships waiting offshore and cargoes sometimes sitting for nearly two weeks to be transferred to a railcar. A record 71 ships were waiting at anchor off the two ports on Friday, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, breaking the previous record of 68 ships earlier this month.

Delays in Southern California have caused a “domino effect,” worsening backlogs of a week or more at the Seattle and Tacoma terminals, said Melanie Stambaugh, spokesperson for the Northwest Seaport Alliance, which manages the large container terminals at Puget Sound.

Ten ships are currently anchored in Puget Sound awaiting a terminal to unload their cargo, Stambaugh said, with four other ships en route. Before the pandemic, it was rare for ships to wait at anchor in Puget Sound; In recent months, so many ships have lined up here that the US Coast Guard has sent some idling to a rarely used port on Whidbey Island.

“I am excited to jump in and immediately get to work with industry, labor and other port stakeholders to address these challenges and build a more resilient and forward looking supply chain. ‘future that propels our economy into the future,’ said Porcari. in a report.

The White House said its work on supply chains has shown that problems at ports – some of which have been around for years – will require the attention of a dedicated official.

Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that Porcari’s record of “leadership in the public and private infrastructure sectors makes him uniquely qualified to work with stakeholders and federal agencies to address disruption in the supply chain.” supply “.

Porcari previously twice served as Maryland’s secretary of transportation, a position that also made him chairman of the Maryland Port Commission.

Biden ordered a supply chain review in February and formed a task force to work on it in June. The federal government is looking to help resolve the disruption associated with the pandemic while addressing what it sees as decades-old issues affecting the supply of products such as semiconductors and batteries for electric vehicles.

Biden signed an executive order in July aimed at increasing competition among shippers and hopes to secure $ 17 billion in spending for ports and waterways in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that was passed by the Senate. However, the benefits of these measures are unlikely to be felt in the short term.

Seattle Times business reporter Katherine Anne Long contributed reporting.


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