FILE PHOTO: The port of Long Beach is shown as a record number of cargo container ships wait to unload in Long Beach, California, U.S., September 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Op-Ed: The Need to Understand What is Wrong with our Transportation Infrastructure

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November 12, 2021

Like many Americans I have been intensely following our country’s supply chain crisis. Many of gCaptain’s readers are maritime, logistics and transportation experts. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has been frustrated at the lack of decent press coverage. For example, the most popular metric mentioned, and in many cases the only metric cited, are the number of vessels waiting outside the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

More frustrating are comments from this Administration blaming our current problems on the country’s ‘fragile’ infrastructure along with solutions such as running terminals 24/7, not appearing to understand that ships are worked 24/7 already.

Now, on Wednesday 10 November the President stated that our supply chains are complicated and that most Americans are not clever enough to understand it’s current problems.

This is ridiculous. Anyone who has traveled from one location to another has the experience to understand supply chains. Anyone who has sat in traffic, run out of gas, had a car die right from under them, been in an accident, had a flight canceled, delayed or rerouted or simply failed to reach their destination can also understand the challenges that our supply chain is facing.

I suspect that this Administration isn’t clever enough to understand the issues. The two people who should be the most knowledgeable, The Secretary of Transportation and the Maritime Administrator, have little to no relevant commercial experience. It’s been widely covered that the Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, was on secret parental leave for two months during this crisis, not that anyone noticed, and the post of Maritime Administrator has been vacant. Rear Adm. Ann Phillips, who has been recently nominated for the position, has no commercial experience (See gCaptain article here).

There is nothing terribly complicated about our supply chain crisis. There are many interconnected issues that together result in the mess that we have today. There is no single big fix that is going to clean this mess up. Choke points need to be identified and changes made. As we start fixing the problems new choke points are going to appear that will also have to be dealt with. It’s lots of work and someone, with a little bit of knowledge and a huge amount of energy, has to lead these efforts, rolling up their sleeves, eager to get into the weeds to get to the heart of these issues. I can assure you that our problems are not due to a fragile infrastructure.

At this moment we have nobody responsible for leading us out of this Crisis.

This is where you can all help. What are the problems? What is causing the problems? Where specifically are there problems, backlogs, capacity issues, etc. This country is not suffering bare shelves simply because the backlogs at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Surely the problems don’t end at the West Coast. Send me an email at [email protected] with details of what you are seeing/hearing out there.

The reason I’m asking is that there is no way that we as a country are going to be able to solve these problems if we don’t even know what or where they are. More to follow.

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