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White House Names Port Envoy to Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force

The White House announced Friday that John D. Porcari will be the port envoy to the Biden-Harris administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force.

The Task Force was established in June to address supply and demand mismatches that emerged in several sectors as the economy reawakened following the administration’s historic vaccination and economic relief efforts. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg leads the Task Force focus on ports and trucking issues. The Task Force’s leadership also includes Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on food and agriculture and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on home-building and semiconductors.

“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,” National Economic Council (NEC) director Brian Deese said. “Our country’s ports are the gateways for getting goods to market, which makes the appointment of John Porcari as ports envoy an especially important step forward in alleviating these disruptions that are impacting consumers, workers and businesses alike.”

The White House said since the launch of the Task Force, Buttigieg and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have been engaged in extensive outreach and engagement with port stakeholders, including a virtual round table held in July with representatives of all aspects of the ports’ supply chain.

“Out of this work, it has become clear that the challenges at our ports, some of which have existed for years, require dedicated focus by experienced, senior leadership to drive toward outcomes that will reduce congestion, improve operations and set us on a sustainable path for the future,” the White House said. “John Porcari is uniquely qualified to take on this role.”

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Porcari will work closely with Buttigieg and his team at the DOT, as well as the NEC, to address the congestion at U.S. ports. The White House noted that 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 percent compared to 2019.

This congestion is being felt particularly acutely at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together handle the largest share of containerized cargo moving through U.S. ports. Port workers and terminals have handled containerized cargo volumes that rose 40 percent in the first half of this year compared to the same time last year. Porcari will work with these stakeholder and others at the ports to address the backlog and associated delivery delays and product shortages being experienced by American consumers and businesses.

The National Retail Federation welcomed Porcari’s appointment.

“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,” David French, senior vice president of government relations for NRF, said Friday. “As consumer demand increases, the supply chain challenges and the costs associated with them remain significant.

“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,” he added. “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.

He went on to say that the retail trade group is “encouraged by the Biden administration’s action on this critical issue.”

“We look forward to working with Envoy Porcari, 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,” French said.

In addition to Porcari’s work, the Biden Administration has negotiated an historic $17 billion in investments in port infrastructure as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal. The funding would help address congestion and supply chains over time by investing in repair and maintenance backlogs and reduce congestion and emissions near ports.

The White House said Porcari is a nationally recognized public and private sector infrastructure leader who has delivered some of America’s most challenging projects and driven the adoption of equitable, community-serving infrastructure policies and projects at the local, state and federal levels.

As Deputy Secretary and chief operating officer of the DOT in the Obama-Biden administration from 2009 to 2014, Porcari was directly involved in overseeing port, intermodal, maritime policy and maritime-related competitive grant programs throughout the United States.

In a previous role, serving twice as Secretary of Transportation for the State of Maryland and chairman of the Maryland Port Commission, Porcari initiated a strategic plan for the Port of Baltimore that built it into the largest roll on/roll off port in the nation, exporting construction and agricultural machinery from the Midwest to the world and growing the port into one of the nation’s Top 10 in terms of both dollar value and tonnage.