Home > FTDO > Statement by Commissioner Bentzel on MTDI FMC Commission Meeting

Statement by Commissioner Bentzel on MTDI FMC Commission Meeting

I want to thank the Chairman for providing me the time and opportunity to take on the Maritime Transportation Data Initiative (MTDI). This has been and continues to be a rewarding endeavor. Before, I begin I’d like to thank the many staff who assisted and contributed to this ongoing initiative.

I especially want to thank Carl Savoy for his work on the weekly productions of our MTDI meetings. His work can be viewed on the FMC YouTube channel. I’d like to thank Sarah Cinq Mars for her work on our final MTDI report, and give special thank you John De Crostra and Mary Hoang for your contributions to the report.

Today, I’d like to take some time to update my colleagues and the public on where we are in the MTDI process and what the anticipated next steps will be.

The Chairman directed me to lead this data initiative. Meetings began in December 2021 and culminated in June 2022 with a Data Summit. Overall, we had the participation of 80 different experts from every sector of the maritime supply chain, supplemented by meetings with the Administration, international shipping interests and other stakeholders.

The three objectives of the Maritime Data Initiative were to:

  • Catalogue status quo in maritime data elements, metrics, transmission and access;
  • Identify key gaps in data definitions/classification; and
  • Develop recommendations for common data standards and access policies/protocols.

I have completed our initial Recommendations and Views and I have met with each Commissioner on this report. The report has already been posted on my webpage, and we are in the process of developing a procedural mechanism to solicit and develop more public comment on the recommendations.

Moving forward, the report in front of you today identifies a significant problem that the industry has brought to our attention.

The problem of sharing information and speaking the same lexicon in the movement of freight has existed for a long time, but became much more pronounced during the pandemic, reaching what I would consider a crisis point in the summer of 2021.

During this time one of the two west coast railroads paused service for two weeks. At every juncture during the pandemic, U.S. ports posted record levels of volume. During the pandemic we had a 27% increase of imported container shipments, and for a variety of reasons we could not handle it. The result was a meltdown of the supply chain, leaving shippers, stakeholders and the U.S. consumer vulnerable. I do not believe, that as a nation, we fully understand that our nation is almost completely reliant on a just-in-time sourcing of international cargo.

Last week, the Secretary of Commerce and I participated at the Construction Industry Roundtable where the industry reported that 87 % of the industry had struggled to complete construction projects because of the supply chain meltdown. For each project that they engage in, literally thousand of suppliers of product are necessary, and each supplier in turn has its own supply chain issues to reconcile. The complexity of need in part mandates that our system of delivery perform at maximum efficiency, unfortunately this was not the case during the pandemic caused shipping crisis.

Let me make this clear, in my view, the costs of transportation congestion were the most singularly important contributor to the costs of inflation that have resulted in trillions of dollars of impact on our economy and to U.S. consumers. Could this have been avoided? Perhaps not completely, but a stronger more connected supply chain will help mitigate severe cargo disruptions and congestion – now and in the future.

Cargo surges will happen again. It is my goal to have a better information sharing process in place, better advanced notification of incoming cargo and much better coordination between the different transportation modes and stakeholders. The number one take away from the 18 MTDI public meetings is that moving freight through our supply chain is a shared responsibility.

At the core of the MTDI process are recommendations for pre-planning cargo movements, enhanced in transit visibility with real-time forecasted arrivals, harmonized exchange of transit data from carrier to terminal and better coordination among transportation modes and stakeholders to inland destinations.

Currently, information on planned voyages into and out of the United States is shared by an outline of the Pacific Ocean with port sites on both sides of the ocean and a notation on how long it would take to make that transit, and while you can see where a vessel was, you could watch that dot for hours or even days without any knowledge of when that dot would arrive to your destination. And when it came into berth and arrived at a terminal there is no standardized way to get information on how to pick up your cargo for a cargo shipment that could be valued in the millions of dollars. Compare this with a Dominos pizza delivery for a $10 dollar pizza.

A standard harmonized practice needs to be established.

As I said, this is not a new problem and not just a pandemic issue. The participants in Commissioner Dye’s Fact Findings 28 & 29 repeatedly referenced information sharing and a common lexicon as major contributing factors to inefficient cargo movement and delays. The MTDI has taken these issues head on. The report in front of you is a summation of these issues centered around five questions that each of the over 80 supply chain experts were asked and that were answered. Additionally, included in the report is an industry lexicon.

This is an area that has developed an intense national and international level of interest, and I have met with and consulted our international colleagues involved in shipping, and I will tell you that they are interested in what we are considering and acknowledge that it is an issue of enormous consequence, in need of a solution. Just this week the State of California announced a MOU for the launching of collaborative for data sharing and the availability of $27 million dollar of investment.

To capitalize on this investment, we need to establish a standard governing what information needs to be supplied by the industry to make the technology work.

Its vitally important to point out that the entire MTDI process has been completely and utterly transparent. I’m proud to say that the public, industry stakeholders, academia and each FMC Commissioner sitting here today participated in the MTDI meetings. And will continue to have the opportunity to constructively contribute to the final MTDI product.

Further, to this point, each of the 18 public MTDI meetings that we convened in 2022, were recorded and are on the FMC YouTube channel. That is eighteen hours of supply chain data experts and users actively answering and discussing the data questions asked throughout the meetings. We have posted comments to this process on my webpage as well. I strongly encourage the FMC to continue to engage with the public and its stakeholders in this transparent way.

I’d like to thank the Coalition for Reimagined Mobility (ReMo) for their public support and look forward to working with stakeholders and coalitions in the near future as we refine the MTDI approach. (link letter here)

Finally, I will be meeting with Chairman Maffei to discuss avenues in which the report and recommendations and follow up questions can be made available to the public.

I look forward to questions from my colleagues.

Carl W. Bentzel is a Commissioner with the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission. The thoughts and comments expressed here are his own and do not necessarily represent the position of the Commission.