During the week of August 30, Federal Maritime Commission Commissioner Carl W. Bentzel is convening a series of roundtable discussions in Northern and Southern California with Congressman Alan Lowenthal, industry leaders, shippers and the State of California. The discussions will focus on the myriad of supply chain challenges such as equipment availability, port congestion and U.S. exporter access to global markets. These issues have plagued the largest freight gateway in the United States throughout the pandemic, while impacting the economic health of the entire country. The first roundtable discussion was convened in Oakland on August 30th, followed by a joint roundtable with the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles to be held in Long Beach on September 1st.
“These roundtables are an essential step in evaluating the value of a comprehensive approach to rectifying the inefficiencies in our supply chain. Oakland, and the port complex of Long Beach and Los Angeles, are vastly different ports, but they have been equally impacted by disruptions caused by the pandemic cargo volume surges,” said Commissioner Bentzel.
The first roundtable, at the Port of Oakland focused on the shippers utilizing the port. The Port of Oakland is the only “50/50” port in California, meaning it handles an equal number of imports and exports. Paramount to the Port of Oakland has been the agricultural industry, which relies on the California ports for access to global markets.
“The agricultural industry has been hit hard during the pandemic, starting with the challenges the industry faced with container availability and more recently ensuring access to space on container lines serving the United States. I want to better understand how U.S. agricultural exports can have equal access to the global economy and that our supply chain and the carriers are providing responsible and transparent access,” said Commissioner Bentzel, who will release a report examining the state of container manufacturing later this fall.
California Secretary of Transportation, David Kim joined Commissioner Bentzel for the Oakland event.
“The State of California has been active in evaluating challenges facing the maritime industry and considering what steps could be taken in order to move forward. Often maritime and the supply chain go unrecognized until something goes wrong. California, and in particular, Secretary Kim reached out to us early in the process and have been working with us ever since. I look forward to continuing our work together as the supply chain resets to a post-pandemic economy. The State of California, as the fifth largest economy in the World, is too large and too important to the maritime industry not to be engaged,” said Commissioner Bentzel.
The Long Beach roundtable will focus on supply chain transparency and how equipment and operations move cargo in and out of the largest port complex in the United States. Commissioner Bentzel will be joined by Congressman Alan Lowenthal, who has represented the LA/LB port complex at the local, State and now Federal level for decades. Congressman Lowenthal and Commissioner Bentzel will also be joined by Long Beach and Los Angeles Port Directors Mario Cordero and Gene Seroka as well as representatives of rail lines, trucking, chassis, container lines, and terminals.
“We are bringing in industry experts who are at the crux of these issues and have decades of experience. This roundtable is about next steps. The current state of the supply chain and its impact on our economy warrants all of us meeting and rolling our sleeves up and working through these issues with all participants in the room. I expect a frank and direct dialogue throughout this discussion,” said Commissioner Bentzel, who has thirty years of maritime industry experience as Congressional Counsel on the Senate Commerce Committee and as a maritime lawyer.
The Federal Maritime Commission is an independent agency responsible for the regulation of oceanborne transportation in the foreign commerce of the United States for the benefit of U.S. exporters, importers, and the U.S. consumer.
These meetings have been convened by Commissioner Bentzel in his capacity as an individual Commissioner.
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.