- The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation has denied funding for the Federal Maritime Commission's intent to design a “supply chain information portal demonstration project,” American Shipper reported.
- The Senate cited "labor-related concerns" but did not specify exactly what those concerns were or why they were sufficient to deny funding for the project.
- The initiative to create an information portal grew out of more than two years' worth of observation and study regarding port congestion. The FMC sought $1 million in funding for fiscal years 2018 & 2019 to develop the portal.
Questions surrounding the Senate funding refusal for a supply chain information portal fuel speculation about everything from the ILA (labor concerns) to port infrastructure uncertainty. In addition, FMC commissioner Rebecca Dye previously stated to the American Shipper that she did not recommend that the government build it [the portal]. No explanation was given.
However, the project will likely move forward even without the additional funding, as the value of the portal is underscored by the need particularly on the west coast, where trust is low among both shippers and beneficial cargo owners (BCOs). Establishing a window of greater transparency along the supply chain, including container, chassis and dray truck availability would greatly improve port efficiency.
Further, as recently as last week, GE Transportation and the Port of Los Angeles implemented a joint program aimed at digitizing maritime data to improve accessibility and safety for shippers and container line companies. This move follows on the heels of DP World's new app "Where's my container," which allows customers and haulers to easily view their container in one of five places: vessel at sea; on vessel at berth; on hold (often for customs inspections); available for collection; or departed by road. DP World's app is not available in the U.S.
With private industry moving forward, and a maritime advisory committee strongly advocating for a national portal, it's concerning that the Senate is not compelled to contribute financially at this time.