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West Coast ports to stay open 24/7 under U.S. plan to relieve supply chain issues

West Coast ports to stay open 24/7 under U.S. plan to relieve supply chain issues
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on solutions to transportation supply chain bottlenecks from the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 13 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a plan designed to unravel supply chain bottlenecks at two of the largest ports in the United States that are leaving many cargo ships at sea with nowhere to go.

Under the plan, major ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., will run for 24 hours a day and couriers such as FedEx and retailers such as Walmart, Target and Home Depot will expand their hours to relieve the slowdowns.

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"Today's announcement has the potential to be a game changer," Biden said.

He said the businesses and ports will work to carry out a "90-day sprint" to relieve the bottlenecks at the two ports.

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"Because all of these goods won't move by themselves," Biden said. "For the positive impact to be felt all across the country and by all of you at home, we need major retailers who ordered the goods and the freight movers who take the goods from the ships to factories and stores to step up as well."

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The bottlenecks have forced dozens of cargo ships bound for the United States to remain off the coast of Southern California and wait for an opening. Images of the ships in limbo have circulated in news reports and on social media.

The ports account for about 40% of the United States' cargo container imports.

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The White House plan has the cooperation of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, whose leaders and port officials were expected to meet with Biden's top officials on Wednesday. The ILWU says its members are willing to work extra shifts to ease the crisis.

Six companies are part of the plan -- Walmart, FedEx, UPS, Target, Home Depot and Samsung.

"Across these six companies over 3,500 additional containers per week will move at night through the end of the year," the White House said in a statement.

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The administration said it's also trying to assist in a truck driver shortage by supporting state motor vehicle departments.

"In 2021, an average of 50,000 commercial drivers licenses and learner's permits have been issued each month, 60% higher than the 2020 numbers," a senior administration official said. "The supply chain is essentially in the hands of the private sector, so we need the private sector to up to help solve problems."

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"These are major commitments, but they're most effective when every private company along the supply chain does the same thing," they added. "And now we're looking to trucking and freight to expand hours as well to help with bottlenecks."

While the plan addresses a short-term fix, the White House said a larger problem of ports, freight rail and roads lacking the capacity they need to move goods must also be addressed.

"Put simply, much of the shipping and freight infrastructure was built decades or even generations ago, and Americans are importing and exporting far more than we did back then," the official said.

In June, Biden created a supply chain task force to help resolve the matter and find ways to ease the bottlenecks, which are affecting a wide range of products like semiconductor chips and other key goods.

Biden also called on Congress to pass his infrastructure plan to help ease the supply chain problems.

"In order to be globally competitive, we need to improve our capacity to make things here in America, while also moving finished products across the country and around the world," Biden said Wednesday. "We need to think big and bold. That's why I'm pushing for a once-in-a-generation investment in our infrastructure and our people."

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