Statement of Commissioner Carl W. Bentzel on the Potential Issuance of Section 18 Emergency Order
After review and consideration of public comment on Section 18 of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022, I concurred with the staff recommendation that current conditions do not necessitate the issuance of an emergency order. If invoked, Section 18 would have required ocean carriers and marine terminal operators to share information to help remedy and address, “an emergency situation of a magnitude such that there exists a substantial, and adverse effect on the competitiveness and reliability of the international ocean transportation supply system.”
Section 18 emergency authority terminates on December 16, 2023, and while I believe, in this instance, conditions did not rise above the threshold necessary for the issuance of an emergency order, there is substantial value in the permanent enactment of this provision into law.
I do not believe that pre-pandemic, the public was aware how dependent our national economy is on the ocean shipping supply chain. It should now be clear to all that we rely on a fragile, complex system of just-in-time delivery that can become unbalanced, and when it does, cause substantial national macro-economic harm.
As I have mentioned in the past, the maritime and intermodal shipping industry transported record volumes of trade during the pandemic, and according to statistics in our last Annual Report containerized imports rose 27% and exports rose 1%. The industry achieved this level of service while longshoremen were working through, and dying from COVID, and without the same sort of substantial federal support that was provided to other industry segments.
Prior to the pandemic, very seldom were there vessels idling off the U.S. coastline, waiting for a berth. During the pandemic we saw an average of 100-150 vessels waiting their turn to berth. Even with reductions in cargo, we are still facing delays throughout the Nation. There is simply too much at stake to not continually assess and evaluate the Nation’s supply chain, so I would like to thank those businesses, individuals, and groups that took the time to present their views to the Commission.
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.