Commissioner Bentzel hosts two roundtables in California, meets with Supply Chain Stakeholders and Federal and State Officials - Federal Maritime Commission
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Commissioner Bentzel hosts two roundtables in California, meets with Supply Chain Stakeholders and Federal and State Officials


In early September, Commissioner Carl W. Bentzel met with California-based shippers and supply chain stakeholders, in addition to convening two roundtables on supply chain issues, to explore opportunities for greater efficiencies.

The roundtables were convened at the Port of Oakland, and at the Port of Long Beach, which also jointly included the Port of Los Angeles. The roundtables were closed door sessions. Both ports reported that these were the first in person roundtables held at each port in over 18 months.

At the Oakland roundtable, Commissioner Bentzel led discussions between the port, shippers, truckers, representatives from the ocean carriers focusing on shipper export and import issues and how to create better transparency for importers and exporters. David Kim, Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency, was also a participant in the meeting.

“It was important that we had a chance to meet with stakeholders directly,” said Commissioner Bentzel. “It makes a difference when you have a conversation in a room that people can react to. It can lead to solutions. We need better information from industry participants to help maximize the efficient use of limited terminal and warehouse space.”

As a direct result from the in-person roundtable , stakeholders continued a discussion regarding opening port gates earlier for better access to agricultural shippers. Shippers also raised concerns about an alarming number of carriers that skipped scheduled calls at the Port of Oakland due to harbor congestion, meaning that shippers had their product at the port, but the carrier offloaded in Los Angeles/Long Beach to avoid waiting for berth space at Oakland. Not having the ship dock, and by extension delaying carriage, has led to extra warehousing and equipment charges costs borne by shippers. The group discussed how to better share carrier schedules with the public so shippers, truckers and other stakeholders can better plan their port trip.

While in the San Francisco Bay Area, Commissioner Bentzel also met with Flexport and Matson, toured the Port of Oakland, and was briefed by executives from SSA about the “peel off” method of moving priority cargo.

“I was particularly impressed with Matson’s expedited shipping services and interested in SSA’s ‘peel off’ cargo handling as a way to help address congestion at U.S. ports,” said Commissioner Bentzel.

In Los Angeles and Long Beach, Commissioner Bentzel convened a roundtable with port directors Mario Cordero of Long Beach and Gene Seroka of Los Angeles. The roundtable was also attended by Representative Allen Lowenthal, who represents the 47th Congressional District and who was instrumental in creating PierPASS. The focus was the operations at the largest port complex in the United States. Included in the closed-door conversation was BSNF, Harbor Trucking, SSI APM, YTI, LBCT, ONE, OOCL, DCLI, TRAC, and representatives from the ILWU and PMA. During the meeting, stakeholders raised concerns about the current PierPASS program and its ability to have greater impacts on freight fluidity within and around the LA/LB port complex. Gate hours, peel off cargo handling, and the overall transparency of the system were also discussed.

“How we manage operations and communicate with the different modes of the supply chain needs to catch up with cargo volumes that are surging through our freight gateways. I am extremely concerned with our Nation’s ability to handle the cargo flow in the coming months. I give great credit to the industry for overcoming the challenges of handling record volumes of cargo during COVID-19 and other operational challenges, but still more will have to be done to keep up with our economic needs,” said Commissioner Bentzel.

“Our national supply chain capacity needs to be better utilized. Accomplishing that objective begins with conversations like the one we had in Long Beach where stakeholders shared information and communicated with one another. While there may be differences of opinions and expectations between stakeholders, it was abundantly clear that all are dependent on one another in order to move forward. I intend to push for greater supply chain transparency as a means of helping address congestion and limitations of space at U.S. ports,” said Commissioner Bentzel.

While in Southern California, Commissioner Bentzel also met with Captain Rebecca E. Ore (USCG), who serves of Captain of the Port and Sector Commander, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles, and Carlos C. Martel, Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles for US Customs & Border Protection.

“I appreciated the opportunity to sit down with Captain Ore and the Director of Field Operations Carlos Martel to talk about the supply chain challenges facing the Southern California freight gateways and their perspectives on the challenges. The FMC, CBP, and Coast Guard are three federal agencies that share different aspects of jurisdiction over the port complex, we need to continue coordination with all stakeholders. While it is promising that legislation is being considered to help address long-term infrastructure shortfalls at U.S. ports, in many areas you can’t build your way out of congestion, we will need to work on operational solutions to help maximize the use of limitations in space and help the industry coordinate to greater extents than ever before,” said Commissioner Bentzel.

Carl W. Bentzel is a Commissioner with the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission. The thoughts and comments expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of the Commission.