Washington Waves
Washington Waves

Ports, Administration Launch Supply Change Data Initiative

Washington, D.C.—Leaders at two of the nation’s busiest ports helped the Biden administration launch a supply chain data exchange initiative to speed up delivery times and cut costs.

Named the Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW), the “novel data sharing partnership” is designed to build on the administration’s ongoing efforts to address supply chain challenges.

Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, and Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, were among the FLOW partners whose quotes of support were provided by the White House.

“We look forward to helping drive this important initiative forward,” Seroka said. “This nationwide supply chain data visibility effort will support system resiliency, improve our trade competitiveness and empower American businesses to get products to market with greater consistency and reduced cost.”

Cordero said developing common data standards to facilitate freight movement is an important part of truly bringing the industry into the 21st century.

“The Biden-Harris administration is playing an important role in clearing obstacles for much needed coordination across the supply chain to make goods movement more efficient,” he said.

Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, said, “Greater transparency—knowing where a vessel or a container is at every stage of transit—would provide the predictability cargo owners and logistics providers need to optimize the use of resources.”

Other participants listed by the White House included Gemini Shippers Association, Target, True Value, Land O’ Lakes, FedEx and UPS.

As part of the launch of the new initiative, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese met with the key stakeholders to discuss the progress made so far in working across private sectors and federal and state governments to address bottlenecks at ports.

Examples provided included a decline in long-term dwelling containers and a reduction in empty containers at the California ports and the creation of pop-up sites for containers around the Port of Savannah.

“This commitment to moving the transportation logistics system to 21st century digitization follows the commitment to move toward 24/7 operations many made last fall,” the White House readout stated.

“Participants highlighted that this type of digital infrastructure was more important than ever in the face of supply chain disruptions caused by global events like the pandemic and Russia’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine.”

Omnibus Appropriations Bill

President Joe Biden signed a $1.5 trillion omnibus appropriations measure into law to keep the federal government funded through the rest of fiscal year 2022 and provide a record $8.3 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

That amount tops Corps funding for the previous fiscal year by $548 million.

H.R. 2471 includes $143 million for investigations, $2.49 billion for construction and $4.57 billion for operation and maintenance.

Funding for Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund projects in the bill is estimated at $2.05 billion, a boost of $370 million above the fiscal year 2021 level.

For non-federal water infrastructure, $500 million in loans was included for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Program.

Biden signed the massive bill at a ceremony attended by top congressional Democrats, but the president praised the bipartisan vote that sent the measure to his desk.

In the evenly divided Senate, the bill received final congressional approval by a vote of 68 to 31, which followed earlier House passage.

In addition to funding the federal government through September 30, passage of the massive bill also allows changes included in the historic trillion-dollar infrastructure law that could not take effect under a stopgap measure.

TSMS Inspection Fees Barred

The American Waterways Operators (AWO) singled out language in the huge spending bill barring the Coast Guard from charging inspection fees for TSMS vessels, which AWO described as its top legislative priority for the current Congress.

“The bill does not allow the Coast Guard to reinstate inspection fees for TSMS vessels until it finalizes a rulemaking establishing differentiated fees for TSMS and Coast Guard option vessels,” the AWO Letter stated.

AWO said it is advocating for a significant reduction in fees for TSMS vessels while emphasizing that now is not the time to raise fees on towing vessels using the Coast Guard option, either.

Daylight Saving Time

Apparently catching the White House off guard, the Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act to make Daylight Saving Time (DST) permanent across the country in 2023 and end the decades-old fall-back, spring-forward ritual.

“We don’t have to keep doing this stupidity anymore,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the sponsor of S.623, said after a unanimous consent action sent the bill to the House of Representatives.

Rubio said the reasons for making DST year-round include economic and health benefits.

He said state lawmakers in his home state enacted year-round DST, adding 19 other states have passed laws, resolutions or voter initiatives on doing the same and “dozens more are looking to do so.”

Rubio’s bill drew bipartisan support with several Democrats following him to the Senate floor to welcome its passage.

When asked about the Senate move, White House press secretary Jen Psaki conceded she couldn’t offer a specific position from the Biden administration on the matter “at this point of time.”

“I have seen those reports. I was trying to think of a joke. I couldn’t think of one,” Psaki said.

Mask Resolution

With a bipartisan vote, the Senate passed a resolution to repeal travel mask mandates on public transportation.

“The Senate said enough is enough and sent a message to unelected government bureaucrats to stop the anti-science, nanny state requirement of travel mask mandates,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the sponsor of S.J.Res. 37.

Passed by a vote of 57 to 40, the measure now heads to the House of Representatives.

The Biden administration quickly issued a veto threat, saying the timeline and circumstances under which masks should be required should be guided by science, not politics.

Demurrage And Detention

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) extended its public comment period by 30 days on proposed rulemaking on demurrage and detention billing requirements.

Interested parties now have until April 16 to submit comments.

Issued in response to information developed by Commissioner Rebecca Dye as part of Fact Finding 29, the notice of proposed rulemaking was to gauge if a new rule governing demurrage and detention practices would benefit trade and should apply to marine terminal operators and non-vessel-operating common carriers in addition to vessel-operating common carriers.

Additional information on what the FMC is seeking and how to submit comments can be found in the notice published February 15 in the Federal Register.

Dye Renominated

President Joe Biden announced his intention to nominate Rebecca Dye to another term on the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), where she has served since 2002.

Previously Dye has been nominated to serve on the FMC by presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Prior to her service on the FMC, Dye was counsel to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee from 1995 to 2002 and served as a commissioned officer and attorney in the Coast Guard’s office of the chief counsel and as a law instructor at the Coast Guard Academy.

FOF Vessel Determination

The Coast Guard is issuing policies that will guide Officers In Charge, Marine Inspection (OCMIs) in determining if a Floating Outer Continental Shelf Facility (FOF) is a vessel or a non-vessel.

As a result of these changes non-vessel FOFs will no longer receive a Certificate of Inspection (CG Form 841), and personnel serving on these FOFs will no longer be required to hold Merchant Mariner Credentials.

 In association with these changes, the Coast Guard is canceling USCG District 8 Policy Letter 08–2001, Licensing Requirements for Personnel on Non-Self Propelled Floating OCS Facilities.

CG–OES Policy Letter 01–22, Determination of Whether a Floating Outer Continental Shelf Facility (FOF) is a Vessel, and CG–MMC Policy Letter 01–22, Merchant Mariner Credential Endorsements for Service on Floating Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Facilities, were issued February 4.

For additional information, contact Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Meacham at 202-372-1410.