The US government has appointed a former department of transportation (DOT) official as an envoy to work with ports on vessel congestion and supply chain disruptions brought on by Covid-19 and recovering consumer demand.

John Porcari, former deputy transportation secretary under the administration of then-president Barack Obama, will serve as a liaison between the ports and a task force on supply chain disruptions that was set up in June by President Joe Biden and vice president Kamala Harris.

“The pandemic has fundamentally disrupted our supply chains, which is impacting consumers, workers, and businesses across the country,” Porcari said in a statement.

“I am excited to hit the ground running and get to work immediately with industry, labour, and other port stakeholders to address these challenges and to build a more resilient, future-facing supply chain that powers our economy into the future.”

He will work closely with transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg and the National Economic Council to address congestion that has led to more than 40 boxships waiting off west coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Higher costs

The congestion and supply chain disruptions have led to much higher rates for liner operators but have also boosted US-China shipments by 90% since 2019, according to the DOT.

"Containerised cargo volumes rose 40% in the first half of this year compared to the same time last year at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together handle the largest share of containerized cargo moving through US ports," the DOT said in a statement.

The Federal Railroad Administration is also working to address supply chain disruptions at ports by investing $362m from its rail infrastructure and safety improvements grant programme.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is working to secure $17bn in investments in port infrastructure as part of the $3.5trn bipartisan infrastructure deal.

The Port of Los Angeles has asked the federal government for help in getting importers to pick up boxes faster at the port to ease the vessel congestion that, he said, goes all the way back to Asia.

“John’s expertise and experience with America’s major trade gateways will be invaluable as the nation addresses supply chain challenges,” port executive director Gene Seroka told TradeWinds.

“His leadership will be immediate and significant as ports partner with the Biden-Harris Administration to find solutions.”