FMC: Mitigating Covid-19 impacts on supply chain

Ocean carriers, marine terminal operators, and port authorities that participate on Federal Maritime Commission’s Supply Chain Innovation Teams established by Commissioner Rebecca Dye as part of her Fact Finding 29 investigation are taking positive steps to address Covid-19-related impacts to the supply chain as well as to prepare for the return of stronger ocean cargo volumes.

An early finding of the Innovation Teams is that marine terminal operators (MTOs) will be better able to manage cargo flows if they receive the following simple, clear information from shippers:

  • Identify shipments that contain Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). These commodities must move first and MTOs need to know which containers to prioritize.
  • Identify containers shippers want to accept and can be prepared to be picked up.
  • Identify containers that shippers are not able to accept or pick up.

Dye believes there is a similarly short list of key steps ocean carriers can take related to customer communications, business processes, and equipment logistics that will increase the efficiencies of the freight delivery system.

As part of her efforts on Fact Finding 29, Commissioner Dye has initiated ongoing conversations with the most senior U.S.-based executives for each container shipping company involved in a carrier alliance. As a result of these discussions, Dye reported that each of these executives has committed to working with their terminal operators to eliminate or change practices that undermine supply chain performance at this critical time. They have also committed to examining their own processes and procedures to identify what improvements they can make to their own operations. Dye noted her encouragement at the cooperative approach the shipping lines have signaled and looks forward to working with each of them to implement operational changes.

“Now is the time to prepare for the volumes of trade we expect in the post-Covid economy and Fact Finding 29 has gotten off to a strong start in identifying what will be needed across the supply chain. The Innovation Teams members are serious minded about protecting the capabilities and competitiveness of America’s cargo delivery system,” said Dye.

Since the FMC issued the Fact Finding 29 Order on March 31, Commissioner Dye has focused the discussions of diverse groups of supply chain actors on problems that need immediate attention, such as cargo storage. Commissioner Dye pointed to carriers, MTOs, and port authorities offering a variety of container storage options as just one example of how supply chain participants can move quickly to address trends before they become problematic.

“I want to commend our industry officials for addressing the storage needs of American shippers whose supply chains are disrupted. They are working to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on their customers and I applaud their efforts.”

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