Port Statistics Working Group - My Observations

Posted by John Crowley on December 7, 2016 12:20 PM EST

On December 4, the Port Performance Freight Statistics Working Group, which was formed as a result of last year’s FAST Act, was supposed to submit its first report to Congress. The report is intended to provide Congress with the Working Group’s recommendations for how to implement a data/statistics collection program at US ports.

It may have been delivered, I’m not sure, but I am awaiting its public release. In the meantime, having attended the public meetings, I have some thoughts to share.  At the last working group meeting on November 18th, the work product of the GAO on West Coast Ports was highlighted.  I thought its mention was apropos and hopefully indicative of the direction of the working group.  My, admittedly paraphrased, summary of the report is:  DOT needs to have a better understanding of the supply chain for its subsequent production of a Freight Policy Strategy due next year.  The GAO observed that the bookend nodes of the applicable supply chain would be the marine terminals and the shippers, each which may hold instructive data, but which data is equally likely to be proprietary and unavailable.   (Personally I would find it interesting to know the shippers’ contracted terms for dwell time and gate accessibility about which they complain.)  However, the GAO observes there is substantial data about the movement of cargo throughout the supply chain that is publically unavailable today but that could be collected.  This data is a natural niche for DOT.  I hope it is the focus of the working group report.

I must also comment on the absence of a marine terminal operator from the working group, something I noted in NAWE letters to DOT/BTS as well as to Congress.  I do appreciate the understanding of terminal operations and representation by labor, an employer representative to collective bargaining, and an operating port authority, – they were well spoken.  However, none of these representatives on the Working Group satisfy the plain meaning of the statute nor do they have the single focus and accountability to terminal operational efficiency that an actual representative from NAWE has.

Note: The views expressed here are mine, and while made as the Executive Director of the National Association of Waterfront Employers, are not with the Association’s members or Board of Directors prior approval or assistance.

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