Chairman Maffei and Commissioner Bentzel Tour the Port of New York and New Jersey, Meet with Stakeholders on Cargo Operations and FMC Enforcement Priorities
Last week, Chairman Dan Maffei and Commissioner Carl Bentzel visited the Port of New York and New Jersey (Port of NY/NJ) to gather first-hand information about cargo handling operations and the challenges posed by record-breaking volumes of cargo imports and COVID-19 impacts. Information was also shared on potential technology innovations and jointly authorized cooperative programs to help more efficiently move cargo. The Chairman and Commissioner also heard from shipper and other logistics providers on supply chain delays, as well as requests to consider potential enforcement activities to address shipping prohibitions.
Chairman Maffei noted, “The Port Authority and industry stakeholders in this region are doing an exemplary job working together to find ways to keep the supply chain moving despite the unprecedented influx of cargo. With such high demand for ocean shipping, much congestion can’t be avoided, particularly at the Nation’s third-largest port. However, on this trip, we heard too many complaints about unfair detention and demurrage charges and refusals to receive empty containers, both of which warrant further examination.”
“I’m extremely impressed with the efficiency, collaboration and dedication the port, terminals, and stakeholders have exhibited during these unprecedented times,” Commissioner Bentzel said. “The port is on track to move eight million containers this year and there is no end in sight. The port and its stakeholders have built a blueprint for success and should be applauded, as they in large part have sustained our economy throughout the pandemic.”
While the Port of NY/NJ has worked through the near-term challenges of the pandemic cargo surges, the focus of the visit was to understand the unanticipated pandemic freight volume increases and evaluate the sustainability of post-pandemic operations given the continued freight volume surges. Port and terminal leaders expect that record volumes will continue as the economy transitions to in-person gatherings and back to school and work cargo moving through U.S. ports this summer and fall.
Chairman Maffei and Commissioner Bentzel received comprehensive briefings from stakeholders starting with the Port of NY/NJ Sustainable Services Agreement as well as the impacts of COVID-19, environmental issues facing the port, cybersecurity, and offshore wind energy.
“While it was heartening to see the value and perseverance of the maritime industry, I am concerned that the system is increasingly stressed, and that we could have a national economic impact as the supply chain continues to suffer delay. Hopefully, we can avoid major harmful consequences to U.S. manufacturing and retail segments. Today, I heard further from shippers about the existing challenges in securing shipment of essential cargo, and I am continuing to closely evaluate information about potential Shipping Act violations” said Commissioner Bentzel.
Commissioner Bentzel further noted that “The Federal Maritime Commission is continuing to collect information through Fact Finding 29, and I anticipate that we will be transitioning to the agency’s mandated oversight and enforcement obligations. The stakeholders have spoken this past year and have said that this has not been business as usual, there is a need for regulatory action and accountability.”
Chairman Maffei and Commissioner Bentzel were also briefed by the Coast Guard NY/NJ Sector Commander, Captain Zeita Merchant, who spoke about the container inspection program and the container safety initiative and potential cooperation with the Federal Maritime Commission. The briefing also covered a wide range of other Coast Guard initiatives with the maritime community.
Additionally, Chairman Maffei and Commissioner Bentzel were briefed on the NY/NJ PortTruckPass system and engaged with supply chain partners to consider their challenges and later met with the leadership of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers.
“I am very concerned about the state of local trucking as the complexity of the system is creating excessive delay in receiving cargo and delivering empty containers, and reports of unfair penalties being levied against truckers. Ultimately if left unaddressed, we will continue to drive licensed truck drivers from this market and imperil all the economic benefit that the Port has achieved,” said Commissioner Bentzel. “Supply chain capacity is at a premium with the ongoing freight surges. In the battle against congestion, time and space matters, and it makes a difference when conversations lead to solutions. I intend to follow up with the three major shipping alliances to strongly urge and encourage them to sit down constructively with the local trucking workforce to address congestion, movement of empty containers, and the creation of policies so that local stakeholders are equipped with the tools to stay in front of the cargo surge.”
This was a very informative trip to the Port of New York and New Jersey. The issues discussed have national significance to the supply chain and are mission critical to the work that is being done at the FMC. Chairman Maffei and Commissioner Bentzel look forward to staying engaged with the port and stakeholders.
Chairman Maffei would like to thank everyone involved in planning this trip and the many valuable meetings, and concluded, “The collaboration and willingness to be creative has enabled this area to get through the highest volume ever seen without totally breaking down. While it has been difficult for many, I am so grateful that cargo continues to move through the port and into the U.S. economy.”