The Mid-Atlantic Regional District Export Councils Host Exporter Roundtable

November 18, 2021.

The congestion at the ports continues unabated and supply chain disruption grows more complicated, raising significant economic international challenges. “What we are experiencing today is a different type of traffic jam, one that has an impact on international trade and the entire global supply chain. Everyone is affected – from families sitting at their kitchen tables to CEOs in the board room,” said Michael Ford, Chair of the Mid-Atlantic District Export Council and program facilitator, in his opening remarks.

An important webinar targets a world-wide challenge

In order to address the significant concerns raised by those dealing with ocean, rail, air, and truck transportation unprecedented congestion, the Mid-Atlantic Regional District Export Councils, including eight District Export Councils covering New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, joined together on November 18 to host a webinar. The primary goal of the program was to inform everyone regarding the greatest challenges and possible solutions to this evolving situation.

The view from the trenches

The agenda for this special session was designed to provide timely, critical updates from various perspectives, including key insights from the Department of Transportation on the newly passed, bi-partisan infrastructure package which will address the disruptions at ports and the need for resiliency in our supply chain.

Heather Sykes, Director of the Office of Supply Chain, Professional, and Business Services at the Department of Commerce, discussed concerns over emerging trends leading to the current severe congestion, such as the large increase in containerized imports and the move to ‘just in case’ ordering, and their implications for storage and transportation of imported goods from the ports to the consumer. Heather also noted the large cost increases of transporting goods into and out of the United States.

In addition, five real-world case studies were presented by local manufacturers and brokers and freight forwarders who are experiencing these global challenges first-hand.  Ken Sanchez, Jim Flaherty, Allan Klinge, Chas Watson and Steven Hollander presented a range of topics from pivoting to new shipping options, such as shifting to sending smaller packages by air, to seeking solutions for working with shipping companies to bring down the drastically rising costs of containers and manage the high costs of shipping. These east coast business owners, along with their west coast colleagues, shared their recent experiences but at the same time, were actively searching for reasonable alternatives and effective solutions.  Despite the pessimism around obstacles such as rapidly increasing costs, idle drivers and trucks, layoffs, canceled orders, lack of storage space and the poor customer service that can all result from undependable scheduling, a positive outlook was also expressed by some.  As Jim Flaherty concluded after all the experiences had been shared, “We’ll get through it simply by working a little harder, a lot smarter, and together.”

The attendees made their voices heard

During the webinar, a live poll of the participants highlighted the critical impact of port congestion on them. Here are the results.

Poll Question #1: Port congestion has impacted many companies. Please select how this issue may have impacted your business in 2021.     Responses:

  • Delayed our ability to export                           37%
  • Cancelled some of our export orders         15%
  • Increased our costs for our products         40%
  • No impact                                                           7%

Poll Question #2: When do you think the issue of congestion will be over in 2022? Responses:

  • First/Second quarter of 2022               7%
  • Third quarter                                                  15%
  • Not until the end of 2022                        26%

Poll Question #3: Can the private sector fix the current congestion challenges? Responses:

  • Yes                                                                   34%
  • No                                                                    34%
  • Unsure                                                          31%

About the District Export Council

The District Export Councils, are nonprofit organizations throughout the country charged with encouraging and supporting the export of goods and services in order to  strengthen individual companies, stimulate U.S. economic growth, and create jobs.

Each DEC member has been appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce because of his or her recognized expertise in international trade matters and commitment to volunteerism on behalf of the local exporting community. The DEC members play a valuable role, sharing their time and specialized expertise with small and medium-sized businesses that are interested in starting to export or expand into new markets.

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