From Night Shifts to 24/7, Biden Administration Scrambles to Relieve Bottlenecks in US Supply Chain
After the COVID-19 pandemic created a staggering surge in demand for consumer products, with factors such as extreme weather and electricity outages in China also contributing to shipping delays, a recent CBS News report warned that an increasing number of shipments were “stuck at sea."
As Joe Biden’s administration
pushes ahead with its ambitious economic recovery plans, it's facing a new challenge ahead of the busy festive season. The congested supply chain is threatening to throw a spanner in the works, as ports suffer from a backlog of freight, reported CNN.
The White House has been urging port operators, transport companies, and labour unions to work around the clock to unload ships and deliver cargo to warehouses across the country. On Wednesday, President Biden is meeting virtually with industry leaders ahead of a scheduled speech on efforts to address the supply chain logjam.
Retailers have been voicing concerns of potential empty store shelves and taking a dim view of the White House’s efforts to fix the issue.
“There’s no political intervention that’s going to get this done, and there may not be a human intervention that gets this done because this issue is now going to last well into next year,” Steve Pasierb, president and chief executive of the Toy Association, was cited as saying.
Amid calls of some industry groups for more federal resources, the Biden administration, which has limited oversight of ports and shipping companies, has reportedly been trying to rally the private sector to address the issues.
According to cited senior administration officials, the White House is urging that supply chain industry operators to expand working hours.
“The supply chain is essentially in the hands of the private sector, so we need the private sector to step up to help solve these problems,” a senior administration official was cited as saying on Tuesday.
Therefore, Biden has announced that the California Port of Los Angeles will emulate the example set by the Port of Long Beach and remain open 24/7 to address what is said to be some of the nation’s worst freight backlog.
Eighty ships are waiting to dock as of Tuesday night, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. Plans to send drivers to ports during night shifts and for longer hours have been voiced by FedEx, UPS, Walmart, Samsung, Target, and Home Depot.
At the forthcoming White House meeting, Labour Unions will purportedly commit to providing extra workers to cover shortfalls. From additional retailers to long-haul trucking firms, everyone in the industry will be urged to ensure the smooth functioning of the entire supply chain.
“By taking these steps, they’re saying to the rest of the supply chain: ‘You need to move, too. Let’s step it up,'” added the cited WH administration official.
Industry groups, in their turn, have suggested their measures, such as temporarily moving shipping containers off docks onto federal or state land for faster unloading. The current problems are predicted to last for years.
"These challenges are definitely going to continue in the months and years ahead. This is one more reason why we do need to deliver this infrastructure package, so that we can have a more resilient, flexible physical infrastructure to support our supply chain in this country," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was cited as saying during an interview with Bloomberg last week.
A CBS News report warned that a growing number of shipments were stuck at sea because of supply chain issues.
Container ships have been “crowding ports from New York to Los Angeles, where 250,000 containers are floating off the coast waiting to be unloaded," the report said.
A Washington Post report added on Sunday:
"Ships wait off the California coast, unable to unload their cargo. Truckers are overworked and overwhelmed, often confronting logjams. Rail yards have also been clogged, with trains at one point backed up 25 miles outside a key Chicago facility.”
The challenges stressing global supply chains are linked to a plethora of factors, with the pandemic-driven surge in demand for consumer products a dominating issue. Furthermore, factories and ports in Asia have been struggling amid temporary closures due to the coronavirus, cites the outlet.
Compounding the problems have been extreme weather and electricity outages in China. The Biden administration’s much-touted bipartisan infrastructure package offers over $200 billion in spending for transportation upgrades to ports, airports, railways, roads, and bridges. However, the legislation is yet to win House approval. Republicans have also refused to vote for Biden's recent $3.5 trillion social spending package
, denouncing it as a waste of money and citing increasing inflation.