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Biden enlists retailers to fix cargo bottlenecks threatening holiday sales


Biden enlists retailers to fix cargo bottlenecks threatening holiday sales
Shipping containers are unloaded from a ship at a container terminal at the Port of Long Beach-Port of Los Angeles complex, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Port of Los Angeles - Reuters file photo

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Washington, D.C. – United States president Joe Biden urged the private sector to help ease supply chain blockages that are threatening to disrupt the American holiday season.

Biden said on Wednesday the White House planned a nationwide overhaul of the clogged system.

He said the Port of Los Angeles would join the Port of Long Beach, two of the country’s busiest, in expanding round-the-clock operations to unload an estimated half million containers waiting on cargo ships offshore.

Walmart, Target, and other big retailers would also expand their overnight operations at the ports to try to meet delivery needs, Biden said.

It is a “big first step” to revamping supply chains in the U.S., the world’s biggest consumer market, Biden said, adding the government would be heavily involved.

“If federal support is needed, I’ll direct all appropriate action, and if the private sector doesn’t step up, we’re going to call them out and ask them to act,” the president said in remarks at the White House.

The broader goal, he said, is to address long-standing weaknesses in the U.S. supply chain.

The stop-and-start nature of the pandemic snarled global supply chains that are optimised for just-in-time movements of goods.

The supply crisis is driven in part by the global COVID-19 pandemic, as sales of durable goods jumped amid worker shortages and transportation hub slowdowns.

A shortage of warehouse workers and truck drivers to pick up goods is partly to blame.

Lower-than-expected Christmas sales could hurt U.S. companies and pose a political risk for Biden, who is already battling a host of other domestic problems in his first year in office.

White House officials said Americans may face higher prices and some empty shelves this Christmas because of the supply chain problem.

Besides the stepped-up port activity, three large carriers of goods – Walmart, FedEx, and UPS – plan to step up their round-the-clock operations to speed the shipment of goods across the country.

Samsung, Home Depot, and Target are also increasing their work in off-peak hours.

The White House expects the pledges from the six companies to expand their hours will amount to 3 500 additional containers moving each week through the end of the year.

Biden spoke after meeting with executives from the two ports, as well as from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the Teamsters, the AFL-CIO, Walmart, FedEx, UPS, Target, the National Retail Federation, the American Trucking Association, the Pacific Maritime Association, and more.