- The White House on Friday announced it would appoint John Porcari as port envoy to the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, which was created in June.
- Porcari is tasked with working with the Department of Transportation and the National Economic Council to "address congestion at U.S. ports," according to the White House.
- The appointment follows a series of conversations between DOT officials and supply chain stakeholders. "Out of this work, it has become clear that the challenges at our ports, some of which have existed for years, require dedicated focus," the White House said.
Porcari's appointment comes as U.S. businesses speak out about the threats logistics bottlenecks pose to margins, sales and holiday season deliveries in Q4.
A Gallup survey conducted in mid-July found 60% of U.S. adults said product shortages prevented them from buying a product in the past two months. The issue? Closures at production facilities and congestion at seaports, airports and rail ports are delaying deliveries throughout the supply chain.
"We have experienced inventory receipt delays in many areas of the business due to temporary factory closures and port congestion," Kohl's CFO Jill Timm said in a recent earnings call.
The tight transportation environment has led to a surge in the price of importing goods to the U.S., a figure which the White House cited as part of its reasoning to appoint a dedicated port envoy.
"Disruptions in global shipping and rapid shifts in demand have led the cost of shipping containers between China and the West Coast to grow more than 90% compared to 2019," the White House said.
And Burlington Stores CFO John Crimmins said the elevated price environment has created a high degree of competition for transport capacity among retailers.
"Retailers have been competing with each other for capacity along really every link of the global supply chain. The competition for that capacity has driven rates at unprecedented levels," Crimmins said on a recent earnings call.
The appointment of Porcari is the latest action taken by the Biden administration to try to address the supply chain issues plaguing U.S. business.
The National Retail Federation said in a statement it was "encouraged" by the White House's move to appoint Porcari and looked forward to working with the administration to "mitigate these challenges, particularly in advance of the upcoming holiday season, so that retailers can ensure consumers can access the products they want and need in a timely manner."
Porcari has served in transportation oversight roles in the past. From 2009-2014, Porcari was responsible for overseeing "port, intermodal, maritime policy and maritime-related competitive grant programs throughout the United States" as a deputy secretary of transportation under the Obama administration. And prior to that, Porcari served twice as Maryland secretary of transportation and chairman of the Maryland Port Commission.
"John [Porcari's] expertise and experience with America’s major trade gateways will be invaluable as the nation addresses supply chain challenges," Gene Seroka, executive director at Port of Los Angeles, said in an email. "His leadership will be immediate and significant as ports partner with the Biden-Harris Administration to find solutions."
This month, President Joe Biden said experts from his administration were "bringing together the port operators, shipping lines, the labor unions, trucking companies, railroads, and others to speed up the port’s operations."
Executives at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach told Supply Chain Dive those efforts included a virtual roundtable hosted by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, where port representatives outlined short- and long-term recommendations for improving supply chain bottlenecks.