Joe Biden Reacts Late to Clogged Ports Crisis; White House Blames Private Businesses

Main: Cargo ships filled with containers dock at the Port of Los Angeles on September 28,
Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images, Insert: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Joe Biden will try to address the issue of clogged ports on Wednesday, after months of failing to demonstrate real progress on the issue.

The president will meet at the White House with the executive directors of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as well as representatives from Walmart, UPS, FedEx, Target, and Samsung. Biden will also meet with labor unions and trucking and railroad representatives.

But the White House told reporters in a briefing call on Tuesday that the supply chain backlog was ultimately up to private businesses to solve.

“The supply chain is essentially in the hands of the private sector, so we need the private sector to up to help solve these problems,” an official said.

The Los Angeles port and Long Beach port had 81 ships anchored offshore and 62 at berth waiting to get unloaded as of Monday, according to the Associated Press.

In an aerial view, container ships are anchored by the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles as they wait to offload on September 20, 2021, near Los Angeles, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, the White House previewed an announcement that the Port of Los Angeles will move to 24/7 service and said that major retailers would commit to using the extra hours to deliver more goods.

A White House official cautioned, however, there was only so much they could do to solve the problem.

“You can’t flip a light switch in this very complicated supply chain and have it change overnight, but we’re already seeing signs of it,” the official told reporters in a briefing call.

The White House also warned there were real long-term limitations about what the ports and shipping process could handle.

“To be clear, no matter what we do in the short term, we ultimately have an issue of capacity of our ports, our freight rail, our roads and bridges,” the official said.

Containers stacked high are seen at the Port of Los Angeles on September 28, 2021, in Los Angeles, California. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Containers stacked high are seen at the Port of Los Angeles on September 28, 2021, in Los Angeles, California. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden’s team did not offer any solutions on trucking issues beyond acknowledging there was a shortage of truck drivers and that they supported state DMV’s working to issue more commercial driving licenses.

The official cited the need for terminal operators to improve the “quality of the work experience for drivers.”

“While there are no panaceas, there are certainly opportunities — and we’re pursuing all of them,” the official said when asked about trucking.

Biden has been aware of the problem with clogged ports for months, promising in August to monitor the situation.

“My administration is bringing together the port operators, shipping lines, the labor unions, trucking companies, railroads, and others to speed up the port’s operations,” Biden said on August 11, noting that “bottlenecks and price spikes will reduce as our economy continues to heal.”

On August 21, Biden appointed John D. Porcari as a “Port Envoy” to assist Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in handling the problem.


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