Statement by Commissioner Bentzel on the WCMTOA Agreement
Commission staff briefed us on issues surrounding the West Coast Marine Terminal Operating Agreement (WCMTOA). The agreement launched in 2003 to maximize utilization of marine terminal resources in the Los Angeles and Long Beach port complex at night to help reduce congestion and mitigate environmental impacts. The agreement allows MTOs to collectively discuss and set the Traffic Mitigation Fee (TMF), which is used primarily to subsidize the costs of terminal operations during off-peak hours. The Agreement has been amended multiple times and the most recent amendment submitted to the Commission was for a two-month period to lower the fees paid at night to further incent the movement of cargo to off-peak night hours. A subsequent amendment that would have restarted and extended the temporary program was submitted and subsequently withdrawn.
I previously stated in response to the temporary proposal that “I believe that more aggressive action will be needed in the future.”
While the Commission continues its responsibilities to continuously monitor WCMTOA against our statutory and regulatory requirements, it is my view the agreement is not adequately fulfilling the purpose for which it was proposed – congestion mitigation. To be clear, I do not necessarily object to implementation of the fee, but the proceeds of the fee collection need to be applied to programs that achieve enhanced use of off-peak night hours. The current congestion should provide an immediate focus to the terminal operators and their customers to reassess their operations work to establish creative solutions that provide new options to establish terminal operations on a 24/7 basis and turn Southern California ports into a non-stop engine of commerce.
COVID-19 did cause significant import cargo surges, that contributed, in large part to the nationwide supply chain congestion we struggle with today, but make no mistake, COVID-19 ultimately exacerbated and revealed fundamental weaknesses within our supply chain. Now is the time to repair and rebuild a stronger and more transparent supply chain. I strongly support the statement of concern issued by Chairman Maffei on February 11th addressing the WCMTOA agreement. I believe that we need to do better to strengthen our economy and supply chain.
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.