USDA and DOT Call Out Ocean Carriers for Poor Service

Brian GermanAgri-Business, Industry

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Transportation are pushing for ocean carriers to address ongoing issues on West Coast ports. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressed concern about how agricultural exports are suffering under continuing challenges. A letter was sent to some of the leading ocean carriers highlighting the issues that need to be addressed.

Ocean Carriers

“The Port of Oakland, Port of Portland, and other West Coast ports have excess capacity to alleviate supply chain congestion,” the letter states. “Restoration of service would not only ease the congestion at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in Southern California but would allow the prompt export of American goods overseas.”

Many ocean carriers have been bypassing certain ports in favor of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. That has resulted in dozens of ships routinely being anchored outside of Southern California ports, often waiting several weeks for a berth. Secretaries Buttigieg and Vilsack called for the restoration of “reciprocal treatment of imports and exports.” The two note that many agricultural exporters have been suffering through irregularity in scheduling and “unfair fees.” Fast-tracking empty containers back to Asian ports and neglecting to include American ag products in the trip back overseas is part of the underlying reason for continued port congestion.

“The poor service and refusal to serve customers when the empty containers are clearly available is unacceptable and, if not resolved quickly, may require further examination and action by the Federal Maritime Commission,” the two state in the letter. “This unprecedented disruption to the flow of goods worldwide has required both government and industry to pull every lever and maximize the use of our existing infrastructure while simultaneously working to ensure that our supply chain is more resilient to future disruptions.”

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West