CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
December 14, 2017
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New government report highlights best practices for improving U.S. port productivity

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The U.S. Commerce Department has compiled suggestions for improving port operations, reducing disruptions, and improving competitiveness.

U.S. ports are facing a rising tide of challenges including increasing vessel sizes, trade volume, and industry complexity. A new report, Improving American Competitiveness: Best Practices by U.S. Port Communities, issued January 12 by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, highlights strategies that leading port communities and supply chains have adopted—or are considering adopting—to improve cargo flow, reduce congestion, address system shocks, and improve competitiveness.

Some of the suggested actions include:

  • Establishing working groups that provide forums for communication and collaboration among stakeholders;
  • Using information-sharing technologies that improve operational efficiency and cargo-status data flow between a port and its stakeholders;
  • Implementing operational improvements that facilitate container chassis availability, allow more efficient planning and scheduling, improve terminal use, and reduce truck turnaround times; and,
  • Working with local educational institutions to improve existing port workforce skills, retention rates, and recruitment.

The report is part of the Commerce Department's 21st Century U.S. Port Competitiveness Initiative. The initiative includes industry roundtables on port efficiency, a government-academia partnership to improve supply chain technology, and recommendations from the Department's Advisory Committee on Supply Chain Competitiveness. (The Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals is a member of that committee.) The Commerce Department hopes that the best practices shared in the report will encourage individual port communities to adopt comparable measures.

Pritzker stressed in a statement that the efficiency and productivity at U.S. seaports are important to the country's economic health. "More than 70 percent of America's international merchandise trade flows through our seaports, linking our producers and retailers with their sources and customers and our nation's supply chains with the global economy," Pritzker said.

The statement also noted that the American Association of Port Authorities estimates that for every US $1 billion in exports that are shipped through U.S. seaports, 15,000 U.S. jobs are created.

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