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- Frank Katz
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?