WASHINGTON—The White House on Wednesday is expected to announce a pledge from one of the country’s busiest ports to operate around the clock, a move aimed at easing cargo bottlenecks that have led to goods shortages and higher consumer costs.
By going to 24/7, the Port of Los Angeles will join the neighboring Port of Long Beach, Calif., which started doing the same thing last month. Major ports in Asia and Europe have operated around the clock for years.
Expanded operations at the Port of Los Angeles, which declined to comment ahead of the announcement, would nearly double the hours that cargo can move, according to the White House. It said the extra shifts have been agreed to by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dock workers.
The American supply chain has struggled to adapt to a crush of imports as consumers shifted from services to home goods, including electronics, and as businesses rush to restock pandemic-depleted inventories. Tens of thousands of containers are stuck at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, the West Coast gateways that move more than a quarter of all American imports. Dozens of ships are lined up to dock, with waiting times stretching to three weeks.
Walmart Inc., FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc. are among the companies that have stepped up operations at the ports, according to a senior Biden administration official, with the expectation that other companies will adopt the same cycle. The companies didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
“By taking these steps, they’re saying to the rest of the supply chain, ‘You need to move, too, let’s step it up,’” the official said.
To get around the delays, some retailers like Walmart, Home Depot Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp. are paying for their own chartered ships as part of wider plans to mitigate the disruptions.
President Biden is scheduled to meet virtually on Wednesday afternoon with directors of the ports, union officials, chief executives, including those from Target Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. , as well as trucking and rail associations. Mr. Biden is then expected to deliver remarks “about how to alleviate supply chain bottlenecks,” the White House said.
The administration has been confronted with an array of supply chain problems, affecting everything from lumber to semiconductors, and it has been seeking ways to partner with private industry to ease the backlog. Biden administration officials said they were also trying to help states speed up licensing for truckers, among other measures.
There has been disagreement over 24/7 operations and finger pointing among key players in the supply chain, which includes port workers, truckers, warehouse operators, railways and retailers. On top of all that, there is a shortage of workers.
When the Port of Long Beach initially launched its expanded hours, it failed to attract more trucks, with operators saying the process was burdensome.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in an interview with CBS Evening News on Tuesday, acknowledged there would be some shortages in the coming months.
“But there is an ample supply of goods,” she said. “And I think there’s no reason for consumers to panic about the absence of goods that they’re gonna want to acquire at Christmas.”
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