FMC: Port congestion will continue until maritime infrastructure upgraded

Port cargo congestion will continue to be an issue until the nation invests in long-term maritime infrastructure, according to the chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission.

FMC Chairman Mario Cordero said the issue of congestion was not brought on by any one event, not even the recent labor standoff between West Coast dockworkers and their employers. He said it has been the result of a new, ever growing model for how cargo is delivered.

“Congestion has been a problem long before labor negotiations … and will continue to be a challenge,” Cordero said at the 2015 Legal Ports Conference in Long Beach.

He spoke of the growing number of supersized container ships being ordered by the world’s top shipping lines. The industry has evolved from vessels hauling 2,000 TEUs to ships carrying 10,000 to 13,000 TEUs — megaships that now regularly call at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which collectively handle about 40 percent of U.S. imports.

Now Maersk Line is poised to order up to 10 ships, each with the capacity to carry 20,000 container units, while Japan’s MOL confirmed orders for ships carrying 20,150 TEUs earlier this month.

“Clearly the world is preparing for increased trade,” Cordero said, adding that funding for dredging and bridge building is necessary to pave the way for the bigger ships.

An estimated $78 billion of President Obama’s $478 billion, six-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal has been slotted for infrastructure related to the port/freight network, the FMC chairman said.

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