A rare port success story is a chance for Biden to Tout’s plans

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Bottlenecks and failures abound in the US supply chain. Then there is the Port of Baltimore.

Gateway to the Midwest and the main point of entry for American auto imports, the city’s port is undergoing a renaissance, including new cranes, improved piers and freshly dredged canals that accommodate large ships. Far from Asia’s arrears and in modest volume, it is proceeding smoothly as major US ports collapse under crushing demand.

President Joe Biden will use the Port of Baltimore as a backdrop on November 10 in his campaign to promote the $ 550 billion infrastructure legislation approved by Congress last week, of which $ 17 billion will go to ports. Baltimore’s upgrades and investments, he will argue, are the kind of projects the measure will fund across the country to speed up the flow of goods to and from the United States and rejuvenate terminal fortunes that transport them.

A container is loaded at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland (Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg)

The White House said the president will highlight the country’s strong economic growth since taking office, including 5.6 million new jobs.

He will also take the opportunity to tout a bipartisan achievement in a Democratic-leaning state led by a Republican governor, Larry Hogan.

“I think the infrastructure is great. It will be great, not only for the Port of Baltimore, but for many ports in this country, ”said Richard Krueger, president of the International Longshoremen Association, Local 953, one of the port unions. “We think it might be a bit late, but we’re happy he’s here.”

Biden’s team is preparing a push across the country to promote the infrastructure plan even as Democrats continue to haggle over their second flagship bill, a bundle of social programs and tax policy called Build Back Better. The public works measure would not have cleared the House last week without the Republican votes, after several Progressive Democrats voted against because the Build Back Better debate was unsolved.

Gina Raimondo

Raimondo

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Nov. 10 the administration was doing what it could to help alleviate supply shortages plaguing U.S. consumers, but acknowledged that the problems would take longer to s ‘flatten out.

” There is no miracle solution. If there was a switch we could flip, we would, ”she told CNN. “We all have to be a little patient as we find that the steps we take are working, but we just have to stick with it long enough to fix the problem.”

“Here we are, act urgently, and we know these are difficult times for American consumers.”

The port of Baltimore, founded in 1706, has already experienced periods of transformation. It’s the closest major seaport by land to much of the Midwest, meaning it was a crucial conduit before railroad deregulation gradually eroded its traffic.

Its latest development was spurred by the expansion of the Panama Canal, which makes it easier for larger ships from Asia to reach the east coast. Dredging at the Port of Baltimore allows it to load and unload large ships; a second berth at one of its terminals will be dredged to a depth of 50 feet next year.

container graphic

The port is the 10th largest in the United States in terms of dollar value of freight and 11th in terms of tonnage. It was not faced with the volume crash triggered by the pandemic that has bogged down other ports this year, primarily Los Angeles and Long Beach, and is therefore less suggestive of the chain crisis. supply. Its volumes are stable, partly affected by a shortage of semiconductors which has hampered the automotive industry.

“It’s a whole different story” than in Los Angeles, said Tinglong Dai, professor at the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s a more optimistic backdrop for Biden’s speech.”

Baltimore provides an illustrative example for Biden as it is a port with new cranes, additional berth dredging and an upcoming rail tunnel extension that will allow trains to “double” containers, senior officials said. administration officials, on condition of anonymity before travel. Baltimore is an example of the investments needed for ports across America, officials said.

Although Baltimore is not at the forefront of the shipping crisis, it has reaped some benefits. The port has received around 24 “ad hoc” ships since July of last year – ships that have gone there for lack of any other option – and has scheduled new weekly services from India and South Asia. Southeast, said William Doyle, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, which oversees the port.

Automatic import chart

” We are well. We must continue to do so, ”he said.

The expansion of the Panama Canal has been critical to increasing demand in Baltimore, he said.

“This is one of the main reasons retailers are investing in distribution, fulfillment and sorting centers in and around the Port of Baltimore,” he said.

Doyle, who was appointed by Hogan, said he planned to say “thank you” to Biden for the infrastructure bill.

“Governor Hogan and President Biden, they’ve known each other for years. They both like infrastructure, ”he added.

There are headwinds for Biden’s push to smooth the supply chain. Some in the transportation industry fear its mandate as a vaccine or coronavirus test for large companies will exacerbate labor shortages.

And port investments raise the specter of automation, a battle line between workers and management in infrastructure sectors, as unions fear jobs will be cut.

“We are concerned about new technologies,” said Krueger, whose union represents office workers at the port. He added that he thinks its members are more productive than robots: “We want to be part of improving the port.”

Biden has not said when he will sign the infrastructure bill. A spokeswoman suggested on Nov. 8 that it wouldn’t be until next week, when House members return to Washington and the White House can hold a ceremony featuring lawmakers who backed the measure.

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