Biden rolls out multibillion-dollar plan to upgrade aging U.S. ports after passage of infrastructure bill

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Aerial view of a container ship of COSCO shipping unloading cargoes at the Port of Los Angeles on October 26, 2021 in San Pedro, California.

Qian Weizhong | Visual China Group | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration outlined several initiatives on Tuesday aimed at addressing immediate supply chain challenges and other disruptions affecting global commerce.

Several senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to share details of the proposed plans, said the administration will begin work within the next 60 days with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on $4 billion worth of construction work at coastal ports, inland waterways as well as other corps-eligible facilities.

The plan will also identify and prioritize $3.4 billion in upgrades to obsolete inspection facilities that will make international trade more efficient through the northern and southern borders, a senior administration official said.

“This is a long-overdue infrastructure improvement and it has clearly been a bottleneck in the past,” the person added.

The officials said the administration plans to standardize data-sharing requirements for shipping lines, terminal operators, railroads, truckers, warehouses and cargo owners.

“There is not a lot of data-sharing among the private sector and participants in the goods movement chain,” the official said, adding that the lack of data exchange causes delays and inefficiencies as cargo moves from one part of the supply chain to another.

The U.S. Digital Service is working with the Federal Maritime Commission and the joint program office at the Department of Transportation to build a data framework that will help move goods more efficiently, the senior Biden administration official said.

“This is one of the more important but less visible parts of this program,” the person added.

The world’s supply chain – already exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic – is continuing to bear the brunt of surging consumer demand, labor shortages and overseas manufacturing delays, which has led to higher transportation costs and inflation.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden will visit the Port of Baltimore to discuss how the $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by lawmakers Friday will improve ports and strengthen supply chains.

The bipartisan infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate in August but sat idle in the House for months, will finance colossal upgrades to America’s roads, bridges, airports, seaports and rail systems.

The bill, the single largest federal investment in American history, includes $17 billion in infrastructure improvements at coastal and inland ports, waterways and ports of entry along the U.S. border.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, in Dearborn, Michigan on May 18, 2021.

Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

The measure, which Biden has yet to sign into law, includes an additional $110 billion to repair roads, bridges as well as other major transportation projects across the United States.

When asked for the timing of these investments, a senior administration official said that work was “already underway” on some projects while other programs would take anywhere from 45 days to 90 days.

The officials did not indicate when Biden would sign the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

The bill’s passage came on the heels of Biden’s attendance at the annual forum of the “Group of 20,” or G-20, referring to the 20 major economies that account for more than 80% of world GDP and 75% of global trade.

While at the G-20, Biden convened a summit alongside leaders from 14 other countries and the European Union calling for their unbending commitment on supply chain issues.

“Supply chains are something that most of our citizens never think twice about until something goes wrong. And during this pandemic, we’ve seen delays and backlogs of goods from automobiles to electronics, from shoes to furniture,” Biden said in his debut at the G-20 since becoming president.

“Ending the pandemic is the ultimate key to unlocking the disruptions we’re all contending with. But, we have to take action now, together with our partners in the private sector, to reduce the backlogs that we’re facing,” he said.

Now that the pandemic has highlighted vulnerabilities in the system, he said, “we cannot go back to business as usual.”

Last month, the Biden administration unveiled a plan to run operations 24/7 at the California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation’s busiest port complex.

Shortly thereafter, the twin California ports, which account for 40% of sea freight entering the United States, announced new fines on carriers in order to clear the intensifying logjam of cargo ships.

Starting on Nov. 1, offloaded containers moved by trucks will have nine days before fines start accruing. Containers scheduled to move by rail will have three days. In accordance with these deadlines, carriers will be charged $100 for each lingering container per day.

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