Cordero Malcom McLean Award Acceptance Speech - Federal Maritime Commission
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Cordero Malcom McLean Award Acceptance Speech

August 2, 2016

Assemblyman Jamel Holley; Jeff Bader; Bethann Rooney; Dick Jones; John Nardi; Executive Board of the Bi-State Motor Carriers; my fellow awardees; ladies and gentlemen:

Thank you for that kind introduction and welcome.

How else to begin than to say how truly honored I am to be the 2016 Malcom McLean Award winner. As I am sure everyone here knows, this year we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the sailing of the “SS Ideal X” from Newark to Houston—the event that is considered the birth of container shipping. To be recognized with this award, this year, makes the distinction all the more meaningful and all the more humbling.

I was appointed to the Port of Long Beach Harbor Commission back in the summer of 2003 and one of the first issues I addressed was the state of harbor drayage and congestion the Southern California port complex was experiencing. Among the various readings in my first year as Commissioner was a book that was not only very informative as to the history of containerization, but in addition provided insight on the trucking transportation industry – that book was “The Box”. And like many, I was intrigued by the impact of one Malcom McLean.

Malcom McLean was the embodiment of what people now call a “disruptor”—someone whose idea and vision creates an innovation so significant, it empowers consumers, expands customer bases, drives costs down, and speaking broadly, has an outsized impact on the economy. The impact on the global economy of the containerized cargo model launched in 1956 in Newark, New Jersey was beyond what may have been foreseeable at that time. Yet, it is interesting to note that what moved Mr. McClean in 1955 to explore containerized movement of cargo were two concerns to his trucking business–congestion and cost. Today, in the year 2016, I believe many in the port industry have similar concerns.

This is an industry that continues to change and innovate. Efficiencies in intermodal transportation are paramount. Right now, there are forces at work that will change the way we move cargo, run supply chains, and operate ports. What is most intriguing to contemplate is what are the changes that will represent the next “disruption” to shipping? What are the things that are going to remake this industry in ways we cannot envision given our current appreciation of intermodal transportation?

The ports in New York and New Jersey have a lot going for them. They are the second busiest gateway behind the southern California ports. Your port facilities link not only the Empire and Garden States to the greater world; they create paths for cargo throughout the Northeast Region and deep into the Midwest. These are assets that create jobs, generate revenue, and are irreplaceable economic engines for your communities, your states, the region and the nation.

That is the good news. The concerning news is that there are serious pressures on these facilities. Overall cargo volume is growing, perhaps even doubling over the next ten years. That volume is going to be carried on ever bigger ships. There are few, if any, places to develop new terminal facilities. Areas around port facilities that were considered industrial zones are becoming desirable residential neighborhoods. Environmental issues are of increasing priority to communities who express concerns about emissions, noise, and industrial lighting. How—operationally or politically—will the people in this room work to deal with 18,000 TEU vessels calling terminals in the New York/New Jersey area, discharging cargo via multiple surface modes, through now residential neighborhoods and on to the some of the most congested roads and highways in the United States. Congestion at the terminals and the impact on the trucking community. Let’s ask ourselves, what would Malcom Mclean demand as to the issue of truck turn and queue time.

The very same priority that port, business, and government leaders in this region place on keeping the New York and New Jersey facilities efficient and competitive is what I view as one of the key missions of the Federal Maritime Commission at the national level; here, to foster fair, efficient, and reliable international ocean transportation system, and to maximize efficiencies in the supply chain.

As the Chairman of the FMC, the agency with jurisdiction over the shipping industry, I am keenly aware of my responsibility to move effective policy—a policy that strives maximizing productivity, efficiency, or competitiveness. The Commission is sensitive to adding unnecessary costs or burdens to your operations or do anything that might ultimately adversely impact the American shipper and the American consumer. We will always work with you to find a way to regulate while facilitating trade, and you should not hesitate to bring forward suggestions on how we can help you or where we should turn our attention.

Malcom McLean helped to create a system that has benefitted each and every one of us. It is an honor to be associated with him via this award and as long as I am in public service, I will work to assure that the vision of Mr. McLean never becomes disrupted as a result of inefficiencies. Today I urge the trucking industry to stand up and demand efficient, state-of–the-art gate transactions that result in significant mitigation of truck turn time and queue time outside the gates. It is time for our major container ports to move toward true and predictable extended/night gates system. Ladies and gentleman, this is our next challenge. A challenge that I am confident that, with your support and advocacy, can be achieved.

Thank you for your time. Thank you for your attention. Thank you for this very high honor. I am grateful for your recognition and I look forward to working together with each of you.