Emergency Order Needed to Support Info Sharing at U.S. Ports

RILA Letter to FMC

Today the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) responded to the Federal Maritime Commission’s (FMC) request for comments on whether supply chain congestion has created conditions warranting the issuance of an emergency order requiring common carriers and marine terminal operators (MTOs) to share key information with shippers, truckers, and railroads. RILA strongly supports the issuance of such an emergency order.

The comment letter notes:

“The Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (OSRA) provides the FMC with an important tool to address congestion at the nation’s ports. By authorizing the FMC to issue an emergency order requiring information sharing by common carriers and marine terminal operators with shippers, truckers, and railroads it has the opportunity to alleviate current and long-term constraints that hamper the efficient operation of our supply chain infrastructure.”

“It has long been recognized that inadequate information sharing is a systemic issue affecting the operations of U.S. ports, and negatively impacts the global supply chain, impeding retailers’ ability to move freight and goods efficiently.”

RILA’s comments urge that the emergency order should address some of the key points of communication and visibility that have consistently been an issue, including:
  • Total numbers and dwell times (age) for loaded and empty containers at terminals: This information (including anticipated daily import/export volumes) would increase transparency and provide a more accurate picture of freight fluidity, as well as helping address the issue of container shortages and the persistent issue of empty containers that contribute to port congestion when allowed to build to untenable quantities.
  • Appointment times and availability: Greater clarity and transparency concerning the number and types of appointments available/remaining (including relative to the number necessary based on expected volume) and details of usage/cancellations would enable greater plannability for shippers, truckers, and other stakeholders. This is especially relevant in light of the need for dual transactions and empty return.
  • Empty container return: Comprehensive and consistent communication of empty container return days/times, locations, and processes will help alleviate the “guessing game” and restrictive policies that have made timely and efficient return of empties, and dual transactions, an ongoing challenge.
  • Access to containers: Ongoing congestion and acute flare-ups frequently create instances where access is restricted—gates or portions of terminals closed, containers not accessible/available, unavailability of appointments, or other restrictions—creating further obstacles to freight movement and leading to detention and demurrage disputes. Consistent communication and tracking/reporting of such instances will lead to greater visibility and fluidity.
“Continued data sharing and transparency will help build a more resilient, transparent, and efficient supply chain, averting an ongoing cycle of congestion in the longer term and ensuring that U.S. ports remain globally competitive to spur economic growth,” said Sarah Gilmore, RILA Director, Supply Chain. “Leading retailers hope to see immediate action from the FMC on this critical issue.”

Access the full comment letter here.

RILA is the US trade association for leading retailers. We convene decision-makers, advocate for the industry, and promote operational excellence and innovation. Our aim is to elevate a dynamic industry by transforming the environment in which retailers operate.

RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers, and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs, and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities, and distribution centers domestically and abroad.
  • Public Policy
  • Supply Chain
  • Transportation and Infrastructure

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