Biden calls on retailers to work 24/7 to help clear backlog at Port of Los Angeles to avert holiday shortages

Biden administration leading 90-day push until end of 2021

Andrew Feinberg
Wednesday 13 October 2021 21:15
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President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on transportation providers and retailers to join the Port of Los Angeles and some of the nation’s largest carriers of commercial freight in moving to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week to clear a massive backlog of unloaded shipping in time for the holiday shopping season.

“After weeks of negotiation and working with my team, and with the major union retailers and freight movers, the ports of Los Angeles, the Port of Los Angeles announced today that is going to be began operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Mr Biden said while speaking from the East Room of the White House. He called the move “the first key step” in matching other leading countries that already operate their ports on a 24-hour basis.

The president noted that the shift to 24/7 operations will nearly double the hours that the nation’s largest cargo port is open for business, and will allow for freer movement of goods during the night hours when highways are less crowded.

Mr Biden said the announcement “has the potential to be a game changer” if “major retailers who order the goods and the freight movers who take the goods from the ships to factories and the stores” are able to “step up as well”. He lauded the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, for committing to “as much as a 50 percent increase” in off-peak shipping over the next several weeks, as well as the two largest freight carriers in the US — FedEx and UPS — “committing…to significantly increase the amount of goods they’re moving at night”. Additionally, Mr Biden said Target, Home Depot and Samsung “have all committed to ramp up their activities to utilize off peak hours at the ports”.

“FedEx and UPS are the shippers for some of our nation’s largest stores, but they’re also shipped for tens of thousands of small businesses all across America. Their commitment to go all in on 24/7 operations means that businesses of all sizes will get their goods on shelves faster and more reliably,” the president explained. He added that today’s commitments “are a sign of major progress in moving goods from manufacturers to a store or to your front door”.

According to a senior White House official who briefed reporters on the administration’s plans on condition of anonymity, the White House will be looking to other transportation providers to step up their efforts in order to maximise capabilities nationwide and avoid supply chain bottlenecks that have many experts warning of shortages during one of the peak seasons for US retail businesses.

Mr Biden said his administration would continue to push other players in the nationwide supply chain to help match the work being done in Los Angeles. He called on them to act and promised help if necessary.

“This is a big first step in speeding up the movement of materials and goods, through our supply chain, but now we need the rest of the private sector chain to step up as well. This is not called a supply chain for nothing,” he said.

“This means the terminal operators, railways, trucking companies, shippers and other retailers as well,” the president continued. “Strengthening our supply chain will continue to be my team’s focus. If federal support is needed. I’ll direct all appropriate action, and if the private sector doesn’t step up, we’re going to call them out and ask them to act, because our goal is not only to get through this immediate bottleneck, but to address the long standing weaknesses in our transportation supply chain, that this pandemic has exposed”.

The Port of Los Angeles is the largest port in all of North America, spanning over 7,500 acres and containing 25 separate cargo terminals. The 3,200-acre Port of Long Beach is the second largest, and has been operating 24 hours a day for several weeks. Combined, the two ports handle nearly half of all cargo entering for the United States, including containers from America’s largest trading partners such as China, Japan, and South Korea.

Both have seen record numbers of ships waiting to be unloaded in recent days due to pandemic-era changes in labour supply and shopping practices. White House officials are hoping the move to all-day, all-night operations across the supply chain will help clear shipping and supply bottlenecks. Other companies joining the push to expand operations are Samsung, Target, and Home Depot.

“We need the private sector to step and help solve these problems,” the White House official explained. They added that the administration is hoping that more and more shipping and logistics providers will join those that have already made the commitment to move to non-stop operations, because such commitments are most effective “when every private company along the supply chain does the same thing”.

“We will be looking to trucking and freight to expand hours as well to help with the bottlenecks,” the official said.

“We will be working across the supply chain for a 90-day sprint to the end of the year”.

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