Biden Picks Former DOT Deputy Secretary As Port Czar

Biden Picks Former DOT Deputy Secretary As Port Czar

President Joe Biden has appointed former Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari as port envoy to assist the administration's Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force and industry stakeholders address structural inefficiencies that are bottling up ocean shipments.

The task force, led by the secretaries of agriculture, commerce and transportation, was established in early June, to diagnose supply/demand problems and alleviate bottlenecks in the transportation, construction, semiconductor, and food sectors.

"The strength of the U.S. economic recovery has tested the near-term capacity of our supply chains, and the administration is operating on all fronts to ease bottlenecks and facilitate the flow of goods across the country," said National Economic Council Director Brian Deese. "Our country's ports are the gateways for getting goods to market, which makes the appointment of John Porcari as Port Envoy an especially important step forward in alleviating these disruptions that are impacting consumers, workers, and businesses alike."

U.S. container imports are at all-time highs as consumers, flush with savings and federal stimulus money, continue to spend heavily on merchandise. The extraordinary demand coupled with COVID-related labor shortages has swamped the ability of ports to smoothly transfer cargo to trucking and railroad partners that are also maxed out. With boxes piling up, longshoremen are hard-pressed to work the vessels in a timely manner. There are 40 container vessels outside the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. The twin ports processed 40% more volume in the first half of the year than during the same period in 2020.

All the congestion makes it difficult for carriers to reposition containers back to Asia, compounding the delays. 

The trade system is so stretched that any hiccup, such as port closures in China because of COVID outbreaks, adds to the logjams. Shipping rates and surcharges are four to 10 times more expensive than normal, depending on factors such as the port of entry, contract terms, and shipment urgency. 

"Retailers have faced a number of unprecedented challenges during the pandemic, and the supply chain disruptions that continue to evolve pose a threat to many American businesses. As consumer demand increases, the supply chain challenges and the costs associated with them remain significant," the National Retail Federation said in response to the Porcari appointment.

"Imports at retail container ports have marked record highs recently as consumer demand continues to stretch supply chains and retailers shift to the peak shipping season for winter holiday merchandise. The bottlenecks and congestion we are seeing at our ports highlight the need for an improved and sophisticated supply chain that can handle these issues. 

"NRF is encouraged by the Biden administration's action on this critical issue. We look forward to working with Envoy Porcari, [Transportation] Secretary Buttigieg, and the full Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force 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."

In June, the NRF submitted a letter to the White House outlining the numerous supply chain challenges retailers have faced throughout the pandemic and potential solutions to address current and future disruptions. 

Buttigieg participated in a virtual roundtable in July with port industry representatives, part of a broad outreach effort. Porcari will work with Buttigieg and the National Economic Council to coordinate a public-private response, the White House said.

Ports would receive $17 billion for infrastructure upgrades aimed at reducing congestion and emissions under a $1 trillion infrastructure package negotiated with Congress. 

The Biden administration and the Federal Maritime Commission are also investigating ocean carrier practices to determine if they are unfairly withholding containers from exporters, or charging shippers unreasonable rates and fees.

Who Is Porcari?

Porcari served as deputy secretary of transportation during the Obama administration from 2009 to 2014. He had oversight of port, intermodal, and maritime policy, as well as maritime-related competitive grant programs. 

He also served twice as Maryland's secretary of transportation and chairman of the Maryland Port Commission (1999-2003 and 2006-2009), initiating a strategic plan that helped revitalize the Port of Baltimore. Baltimore is now the largest auto/vehicle port in the nation and has been growing as a destination for containers.

Under Porcari's leadership, the Port of Baltimore also entered into a public-private partnership to expand its Seagirt container terminal, adding a fourth, 50-foot container berth and ship-to-shore cranes to accommodate the newest super-post-Panamax container vessels. The  50-year, $1.3 billion concession became a model for other port projects around the country.

Porcari currently is a managing partner for 3P Enterprises. He was president of U.S. advisory services for WSP USA for six years, during which time he served as interim executive director of the Gateway Development Corp., which oversees a comprehensive passenger rail investment program for the Northeast Corridor.

Click here to read more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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11 Best Black Friday Deals on Amazon

11 Best Black Friday Deals on Amazon

The best Black Friday deals from Amazon are still coming hard and fast because the holiday is not yet upon us and the mega-retailer prefers to keep consumers on the hook for as long as possible—spending as much money as possible. 

To that end, here are some of the best Black Friday deals from Amazon that you might want to consider today.

Calphalon 10-Piece Pots and Pans Set

Regular Price: $172

Sale Price: $138.88

Calphalon’s 10-Piece Pots and Pans Set is designed with stainless steel, stay-cool handles along with pour spouts. The nonstick surface is PFOA-free and built with hard-anodized aluminum that is both durable and conducts heat extremely well. The set includes 2 fry pans, a sauce pan with cover, saute pan with cover and large stock pot with cover.

Apple AirPods 2nd Generation

Regular Price: $144

Sale Price: $85.49

The 2nd Generation AirPods from Apple connect to all Apple devices and give you an enhanced listening experience. Plus, they come with a case that keeps them safe and allows you to charge them in a secure environment. With over 24 hours of battery life, access to Siri and easy setup, you can start listening to your favorite tunes or podcasts today.

Adidas Ultraboost 21 Running Shoes

Regular Price: $129.98

Sale Price: $89.98

The Adidas Women’s Ultraboost 21 running shoe is perfect for anyone who likes a short run, maybe a 5K, half marathon or more. Coming in several colors and styles, you can slip these shoes on, enjoy the cushioned outsole, sink into the supple insole and secure laces.

Ninja AF101 Air Fryer

Regular Price: $129.99

Sale Price: $97.83

The Ninja AF101 Air Fryer allows you to crisp, roast, reheat and even dehydrate food products faster and cheaper than ever before. It has a 4-quart capacity and offers a wide temperature range along with several time settings so that you can customize each dish to your needs. Plus, all the parts are dishwasher safe.

Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones

Regular Price: $199.95

Sale Price: $99

Beats by Dr. Dre are among the best headphones on the market, and the Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphones include the Apple W1 chip, Class 1 Bluetooth and 40 hours of battery time. These headphones even have a built-in microphone and offer an adjustable fit so that you can be comfortable whether you’re listening to an Android or iOS device.

Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Cleaner

Regular Price: $198.98

Sale Price: $175.98

The Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Cleaner allows you to keep your home spotless and clean up after your pets. The cleaner comes with the Hoover Paws and Claws Deep shampoo and a storage mat to keep the floor dry once it’s put away.

LG CordZero Auto Empty Cordless Stick Vacuum

Regular Price: $999.00

Sale Price: $851.71

The LG CordZero Auto Empty Cordless Stick Vacuum and Wet Mop All in One Tower is designed to work in homes with several pets or children and clean up all the messes that life brings. The battery lasts up to 2 hours, and there’s an extra removable battery that gives you even more cleaning time and power.

Breville Fresh and Furious Blender

Regular Price: $278.60

Sale Price: $199.95

Breville, a top name in blenders and juicers, offers the Fresh and Furious Blender, featuring 50-ounce capacity, Vac Q technology, pre-programmed cycles, LCD display and lid with pull ring. With the Fresh and Furious Blender, you can make everything from a smoothie to a soup and everything in between.

Hot Tools Professional 2000 Turbo Ionic Hair Dryer

Regular Price: $89.99

Sale Price: $55.63

The Hot Tools Professional 2000 Turbo Ionic Hair Dryer is designed for professional use, but it works perfectly in the home. With 1875 watts of power, 6 heat and speed settings and a lightweight design, you can easily style your hair and utilize the diffuser, cut back on the frizz and stretch the 8 ft cord for maximum functionality.

Columbia Heavenly Long Hooded Jacket

Regular Price: $160

Sale Price: $97.38

The Heavenly Long Hooded Jacket from Columbia is designed to be light for everyday use, but it’s heavy enough to protect you from the cold. The plush fleece lining, security pocket, water resistant fabric, 2-way zipper, and zippered hand pockets make the jacket both protective and functional.

ConAir InfinitiPro Hair Dryer

Regular Price: $49.99

Sale Price: $29.99

ConAir is one of the biggest names in hair and beauty, and the InfinitPro is an 1875 watt hair dryer designed for professionals with ceramic technology. The dryer comes with a diffuser and concentrator, and it allows you to blow out your hair just the way they would at the salon.

Deals the Experts Are Hoping For

Experts believe that Amazon’s Black Friday sale could linger for quite some time. It all started with the Prime Early Access sale on October 11 and 12. Previously, Amazon has offered the “Epic Deals” sale that ran through late October. 

This is to say that any sale could come up at any time. 

Even so, those monitoring Amazon are looking forward to a few potential deals, including:

  • Apple Watch
  • AirPods (any generation)
  • MacBook Pro
  • Large, underpriced TVs
  • Amazon Echo
  • More small home appliances (Dyson or Shark vacuums, Instant Pots, etc.) 

While these predictions are based on last year’s Amazon Black Friday Sale, it’s important to remember that most Black Friday sales are fairly consistent and push the products that are most likely to sell.


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