Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Supply Chain Issues Lead to 24/7 Operations At Major Ports

Washington, D.C.—As part of its months-long effort to address supply chain bottlenecks, the White House announced the Port of Los Angeles will move toward 24/7 operations, joining the Port of Long Beach, which expanded operations last month.

Together, the two ports are the point of entry for 40 percent of containers to the U.S. and are expected to reach new highs in container traffic this year.

“This is the first key step toward moving our entire freight transportation and logistical supply chain, nationwide, to a 24/7 system,” President Joe Biden said.

Biden made the announcement with the directors of the two ports and the president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, whose members will work the extra shifts.

He also announced FedEx and UPS are committing to significantly increase the amount of goods they are moving at night.

Other companies such as Target, Home Depot and Samsung are ramping up their activities to utilize off-peak hours at ports, the president said.

Sea Year Misconduct Allegations

The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) once again is being hit by allegations of sexual misconduct, including rape, from midshipmen during their Sea Year.

“The despicable accounts put forth by brave young women and men just starting promising careers in the maritime industry are frightening and unacceptable,” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said in a letter to Lucinda Lessley, acting administrator of the Maritime Administration (MarAd).

Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, cited stories of “shipboard sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape” posted on the website of Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy, a legal advocacy group formed on behalf of mariners.

She demanded accountability and asked Lessley to hand over information describing the steps taken by MarAd, the Department of Transportation and the USMMA to investigate the allegations.

Cantwell specifically asked, “How many reports of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or related offenses have been reported by or concerning midshipmen of the USMMA in the last 10 years?”

She also sent a letter to the Coast Guard, which, she said, has primary jurisdiction for investigating incidents on the high seas.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.),  chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, said the pattern of abuse in the maritime industry and the Sea Year program has gone on too long.

“We must reform the toxic culture that has allowed this problem to fester, and not stop until our seas are safe for everyone,” the two men said.

Cantwell posted a letter to the community on her committee’s website from Lessley and Polly Trottenberg, deputy secretary of Transportation.

In it, they expressed support “for the individual who has shared her story of sexual assault that took place during Sea Year” and said they were determining the appropriate steps required to increase and ensure the safety of midshipmen.

Debt Limit

Voting along party lines, the House approved a temporary suspension of the nation’s debt limit, preventing a potential default through at least early December.

“We have temporarily averted crisis ahead of next week’s deadline but, come December, members of  Congress will need to choose to put country before party and prevent default,” Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee,  said following the 219-206 vote.   

Neal added that “preserving the full faith and credit of the United States is a bipartisan, bicameral responsibility.”

Republicans disagree.

In a letter to President Joe Biden, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky again made it clear he believes raising the debt limit remains the duty of Democrats.

“I write to inform you that I will not provide such assistance again if your all-Democrat government drifts into another avoidable crisis,” McConnell said, referencing his support of a procedural motion to advance the temporary measure.

That legislation, which allows the country to borrow another $480 billion, passed the evenly divided Senate 50 to 48 with two Republicans not voting.

Biden will sign the bill as soon as it gets to his desk, according to a White House statement, which again warned of a default’s devastating impact on the nation’s economy.

Infrastructure Negotiations

Congressional Democrats accepted the reality that their $3.5-trillion so-called human infrastructure package will have to be trimmed.

“I’ve very disappointed that we’re not going with the original $3.5 trillion, which was very transformative,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters.

Pelosi said whatever comes out of current negotiations on what stays in the package will continue to be transformative for women in the workplace.

After the votes to kick the can down the road on appropriations and the debt limit, Tracy Zea, president and CEO of Waterways Council Inc., (WCI) described the timing of the much-anticipated vote on infrastructure as “elusive.”

“The reconciliation process is at least a couple of weeks away from being ready for prime time, which poises infrastructure to be pushed into November, or potentially December,” Zea wrote in WCI’s Capitol Currents newsletter.

Passed weeks ago by the Senate, the trillion-dollar bipartisan infrastructure bill includes $17 billion for ports and waterways.

Cybersecurity Requirements

The Coast Guard launched its verification of cybersecurity requirements for Maritime Transportation Security Act-regulated facilities.

“Beginning on October 1, 2021, facility owners and operators who have not already done so should submit FSP cyber amendments or annexes to their local Captain of the Port (COTP) as part of the facility’s annual audit,” the Office of Port Facility Compliance stated.

“COTPs will verify that facilities have addressed cybersecurity within the FSA and FSP cyber amendments/annexes. COTPs retain discretion on whether the requirements have been met, and on any potential extension of submission dates.”

Chemical Transportation Committee

The National Chemical Transportation Safety Advisory Committee is scheduled to hold an inaugural meeting November 2 by teleconference to discuss matters relating to the safe and secure marine transportation of hazardous materials.

Open to the public, the meeting is set to begin at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Comments and documents should be submitted by October 26 to ensure they are reviewed before the meeting.

For additional information on the meeting and participation, contact Lt. Ethan Beard at 202-372-1419.

Shipper Advisory Commission

The recently established National Shipper Advisory Commission (NSAC) is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Eastern on October 27 by video conference to organize itself and begin discussions on advising the Federal Maritime Commission on international ocean freight delivery system.

A link to the meeting will be provided by email in advance to registrants whose requests should be submitted by 5 p.m. October 22 to nsac@fmc.gov with ‘‘REGISTER FOR NSAC MEETING’’ in the subject line.

For additional information, contact Dylan Richmond at 202-523-5810.