Date: Thursday, November 11, 2021
Source: The Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON—Ports snarled with supply-chain problems, including a major one in Georgia, will be able to redirect money from other federally funded projects to help ease the logjams under a plan outlined by the Biden administration.
The existing grant money could be used more quickly under the new policy, administration officials said Tuesday. They also highlighted $17 billion for ports and waterways that will be available after President Biden signs the roughly $1 trillion infrastructure spending package Congress approved last week.
The moves come as supply-chain issues continue to mount, with significant container backups at ports leading to slower delivery times and product shortages. It has become both a logistical and political problem for the White House and has persisted despite months of attention to the issue.
Under the new program, ports could apply unused money from existing projects toward solutions for the immediate crisis. The Port of Savannah, Ga., for example, will be able to reallocate more than $8 million of funding to create five temporary inland container yards to reduce dockside congestion, the administration said.
Dozens of ships have backed up off the port, the fourth-largest U.S. gateway for seaborne imports, in recent months because of a surge of imports.
The pop-up sites will allow the Georgia Ports Authority to move thousands of containers off docks and free up space to unload containers and move boxes inland more quickly, officials said.
The ports in the U.S. are generally owned by states or other government entities and run by government boards such as ports authorities. Many act essentially as landlords for private companies that run cargo-handling operations on docks.
The administration said it would also make $240 million in grant funding available in the next 45 days for ports and identify projects for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction at coastal ports and inland waterways within 60 days.
“This plan will provide a road map for more than $4 billion in funding to repair outdated infrastructure and to deepen harbors for larger cargo ships,” the White House said in a fact sheet distributed Tuesday.
Some $17 billion in total will flow to port and waterway projects under the $1 trillion infrastructure plan, which amounts to the biggest federal infrastructure investment in more than a decade, with money to repair aging roads and bridges, expand internet access and upgrade the nation’s power grid.
Mr. Biden, whose public approval rating has suffered in recent months, has acknowledged the frustration from consumers about delays and shortages.
“You can understand why people are upset,” he said Saturday after the infrastructure bill had passed the House. “Whether you have a Ph.D. or you’re working, you know, in a restaurant, it’s confusing. And so, people are understandably worried. They’re worried.”
Congestion has been most severe at the nation’s busiest container ports in Southern California. The administration recently pushed to get the Port of Los Angeles to operate around the clock, following a pilot program at the neighboring Port of Long Beach. Such efforts have been slow to get off the ground because of a lack of interest from shippers and truckers.
On Tuesday, Mr. Biden spoke with the CEOs of Walmart Inc., United Parcel Service Inc., FedEx Corp. and Target Corp. and received updates on “the efforts they’re taking to speed up throughput in our entire goods movement supply chain,” the White House said in a statement that predicted “shelves will be well-stocked this holiday season.” The president is scheduled to visit the Port of Baltimore on Wednesday to discuss infrastructure spending and supply chains.