- Back to all Speakers
- Ari Ashe
Never have the links between ocean and surface transportation been revealed so clearly as in the 2021-2022 supply chain debacle. Importers and exporters are finding that bottlenecks only begin at seaports and extend far inland. In fact, disruption ripples back and forth between ports and inland pain points, magnifying problems and adding to transportation costs. This session will unravel the difficulties shippers are having getting goods to and from ports via surface transportation, primarily trucking. We will examine where those bottlenecks beyond the ports are, how they affect each other, and what can be done to fix them, as well as the outlook for pricing from ocean shipping to the US truckload and LTL markets.
After a tumultuous 2021, international intermodal shippers are focusing on how railroads can prevent bottlenecks from returning in Southern California, the Midwest, and the South Central US, while domestic intermodal shippers are focusing on when new container capacity will become available and how much contract rates will increase. As 2021 wound down, terminals in markets such as Chicago, Memphis, Kansas City, and Ohio were more fluid than earlier in the year, when international intermodal networks were paralyzed by a flood of import containers originating in Southern California and a shortage of chassis on which to mount them. As ocean containers piled up at inland railyards, domestic intermodal service also suffered because terminals typically store ocean and domestic containers together. Some relief is on the way, as numerous shippers and service providers are scheduled to receive new containers. Lawrence Gross, president and founder of Gross Transportation Consulting, believes that will help alleviate some of the pressure, while warning that a cooldown in freight demand would suddenly make a lot of new 53-foot capacity underutilized. A cooling of demand also could help improve flow through BNSF Railway and Union Pacific ramps on the West Coast, after both were forced to scale back, or “meter,” the number of routings through the heavily congested gateways last year, leading to a spike in transloading. This session will examine the major issues confronting the intermodal network in 2021, analyze the outlook for this year, and explore what shippers and service providers are doing to prevent a worst-case scenario from repeating.
We’ve been discussing detention and demurrage for as long as there has been a TPM, and the first one was in 2001. This year is no different. But while shippers’ complaints resulted in little to no change in the past, the situation is very different today. The old adage applies: If the private sector can’t solve its own problems, the government will step in, and that is what is happening. The FMC in July began to audit ocean carriers’ D&D policies and in October pushed carriers to improve transparency regarding the clarity and certainty around how and when fees will be assessed, as well as how disputed charges can be challenged. Meanwhile, D&D is a core element of the proposed bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021, introduced in August by Reps. John Garamendi, D-California, and Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota. What would be the first rewrite of US shipping law since 1998 would require ocean carriers or marine terminals to certify that D&D comply with federal regulations and shift the burden of proof regarding the reasonableness of D&D fees from the invoiced party to the ocean carrier or marine terminal operator. This session will dive into these changes, assessing the potential for real change in practices that the FMC has been investigating for the past seven years.
In 2021, the Commerce Department, acting to protect US chassis manufacturers, imposed antidumping and countervailing duties totaling more than 200 percent on chassis made in China, where most chassis were produced. By July, the dominant Chinese producer, CIMC, all but ceased production of finished chassis for US customers. As a result, chassis lessors believe the US marine chassis fleet will grow by only 7,000–10,000 units in 2021, or less than 2 percent of the fleet. This sobering situation comes as containerized imports are soaring, up 21 percent from Asia in the first eight months of 2021. “The US manufacturers have clearly not delivered the capacity they said they had,” said James Newsome, CEO of the South Carolina Ports Authority. “We have advocated for the removal of these countervailing duties for two years (2022-2023) so that those wanting to buy new chassis can do so.” Added Ron Widdows, CEO of FlexiVan Leasing: “The single most significant source of chassis manufacturing was in China, and the actions taken by the US government to protect a US manufacturing sector that was not in a position to meet the demand were not very well-conceived.” In a letter to the Biden administration, US manufacturers argue that they have made considerable progress in ramping up production: “Since the imposition of the orders, America’s chassis manufacturers have hired hundreds of new workers, with plans to hire hundreds more, invested millions of dollars to increase production and capacity, and increased production and capacity by over 400 percent with additional planned expansions.” Pratt Industries, for example, made less than 500 marine chassis in 2020 but produced nearly 4,000 in 2021, an eightfold increase. But even US manufacturers acknowledge sourcing chassis subcomponents is going slower than expected. So, when will manufacturers be able to fulfill enough chassis orders to address the equipment shortage? Is there any possibility the government will withdraw the countervailing duties?