Commissioner Doyle’ Remarks to the 14th annual Port of New York-New Jersey Port Industry Day - Federal Maritime Commission
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Commissioner Doyle’ Remarks to the 14th annual Port of New York-New Jersey Port Industry Day

October 8, 2014

William P. Doyle, Commissioner
United States Federal Maritime Commission
Keynote Address: Easing Port Congestion
14th Annual Port New York/New Jersey Port Industry Day
World Trade Center, New York, NY
October 7, 2014

My name is William Doyle. I am a Commissioner with the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission. Thank you for inviting me to address you today at the 14th Annual Port of New York-New Jersey Port Industry Day. I have been asked to give some remarks on the topic of Easing Port Congestion. The statements and comments that I make are mine and mine alone, and they should not be construed as representing the position of my fellow Commissioners or the Commission.

I am honored to be here at 4 World Trade Center, New York, New York.

Our nation pauses often, as do people from around the world who visit lower Manhattan every year, to remember the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001.

As we pause for a moment today, less than a year after the doors of this building opened, we remember the acts of courage and bravery shown by so many first responders.

When discussing that day, I add to the dialogue a not-so-well-known story about the maritime community.

In never forgetting the heroic actions by police, firefighters, EMTs, and ordinary folks, we should remember the men and women in maritime who helped bring hundreds of thousands of people to safety in what became the largest sea-borne evacuation in American history.

On that day, the U.S. Coast Guard put out a call for all vessels in the area to help those who were stranded in lower Manhattan. Mariners answered this call immediately, evacuating more than 500,000 people in just nine-hours. By comparison, following the World War II Battle of Dunkirk, 300,000 allied forces were rescued by sealift over a period of nine days.

Maritime men and women have pulled together throughout history– whether it is decades of planning for the construction of the original Panama Canal or without any notice on 9/11. And it is our collective responsibility to ensure we continue this legacy of finding solutions to issues of great importance.

As we reflect on moments in history where we have exercised great responsibility, it is our obligation to turn to an issue of great national and economic security … our ports.

Thank you New York and New Jersey and thank you for everything you do. You have a great and important maritime gateway within the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. You are the largest port on the East Coast, and the third busiest port in the nation.

I would like to turn to an issue of great importance– the issue of port congestion. As you may know, the Federal Maritime Commission is conducting a series of port congestion forums around the country. In September FMC Chairman Mario Cordero held a forum in Los Angeles. Last week Commissioner Lidinsky and I led the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast forum in Baltimore; at the end of this month there will be one in Charleston, SC and then finally in November a forum will be held in New Orleans.

I know your port has gone through some very difficult times in the past couple years. And, standing here at the World Trade Center, I am reminded of how this port, and all of you, have been challenged like no others.

But, when it comes to the problems that have contributed to congestion I am here to tell you New York/New Jersey that you are not alone—it’s a world-wide problem. Specifically, the U.S. and Europe are facing port congestion problems. Larger ships are coming online, the economic engines are beginning to rev-up again, and we have had our share of weather related problems.

The good news is that infrastructure and port related projects garner bipartisan support. The Obama Administration strongly supports the development of our ports through TIGER Grants and expedited regulatory reviews. Further, Congress recently passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014, the first water resources bill signed into law in 7 years.

Specifically, with respect to New York and New Jersey, this year the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a $14.8 million construction grant for the Port Newark Container Terminal Access Improvement and Expansion Project. And of course, the Port Authority of NYNJ is funding the raising of the Bayonne Bridge, among other projects.

Moving along, last week at the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Port Forum in Baltimore we heard from over 30 stakeholders—and there were more than 130 people in attendance. We had truckers, chassis owners, drivers, shippers, and ocean carriers. Port and terminal executives from New York to Savannah were in the room, including Rick Larrabee (PONYNJ), John Nardi (NY Shipping Association) and John Atkins (Global Container Terminals).

The Forum included a roundtable where stakeholders shared their perspectives on what the ports are experiencing.

While the stakeholders represented different business perspectives one of the things most of them acknowledged is the particular difficulty faced by drayage trucking, which is losing drivers at an unsustainable rate. I believe many of you may have heard from Jeff Bader, a trucking-company owner and president of the Association of Bi-State Motor Carriers. He was present and spoke in Baltimore. Mr. Bader is an expert on the subject matter.

The problems faced by both trucking companies and drivers are not in dispute. Truckers and drivers are mission critical to a properly functioning supply chain.

I think that forums such as those being conducted by the Federal Maritime Commission are important. They bring the right folks together for honest and open discussions.

I believe what you folks here have done with the Port Performance Task Force is significant. You came up with twenty-three (23) recommendations—and some of those recommendations must have been very difficult for everyone to come to accept. By doing so though, it demonstrates how deeply you care about finding solutions. What you have done together as a port community is impressive.

But, as I have just hinted, that was the easy part—formulating recommendations. Now, you are moving to the next phase—implementation. You have disbanded the Task Force and formed the Council on Port Performance (CPP). The CPP is charged with overseeing the programs and initiatives that will improve efficiency and service reliability in the Port of New York and New Jersey. I wish you all the best in the implementation phase and I know that you will succeed.

There is a thoughtful and well-reasoned task force report that is laid before you. I urge you to implement the recommendations and finish the work—together.

Where can the Federal Maritime Commission fit-in? Implementing some of your Task Force recommendations may generate competition concerns where the FMC may have jurisdiction. You may need to amend one or more of the terminal operator/port authority FMC Discussion Agreements. To this end, the Commission is here to help.

Before concluding today, I would be remiss not to bring forward an issue on the periphery of port congestion but extremely important nonetheless—Demurrage.

Demurrage fees placed on shippers who are ready, willing and able to pick-up their containers but, through no fault of their own, these shippers are precluded from getting their boxes—and as a result they have to pay a fine for the storage days in the terminal. Please think about this problem—it is surfacing more and more.

I have heard numerous examples of shippers who are ready, willing and able to pick-up their containers but, through no fault of their own are precluded from getting their boxes—and as a result they have to pay a fine for the storage days on the terminal. Please think about this problem—it is surfacing more and more.

The United States needs a healthy and competitive supply chain. I am confident that what you are doing here, and what the folks in Norfolk, LA/Long Beach, Houston,Seatle/Tacoma, and Savannah and many other ports are doing, will get us there. Maritime did an amazing boatlift in nine hours; this will take longer than nine hours or nine days, but with proper planning we’ll get there.

A Collaborative Effort for a Collective Change—that’s your motto—now let’s live up to it.

Thank you!