The “infrastructure” in the intermodal supply chain needs to be improved because of the inexcusable delays in getting product from overseas manufacturers to the end-user. Everyone would agree with that statement because supply line difficulties couldn’t be spelled out any more simply. Things aren’t as simple, however, when “infrastructure” delays are dealt with at the many conferences held by the maritime and transportation industries. Some officials have taken immediate, independent action within their particular spheres in order to speed things along, because in order to avert delays, isn’t it logical to expedite? No, not in this case. An immediate response is not called for, and neither is an independent one. And hurrying things along when there’s a bottleneck a-building makes no sense at all. Let’s take a look at how things have developed.
• Because overseas manufacturers sensed the growing demand on the part of consumers, supply was increased by the addition of overseas manufacturing facilities and laborers.
• Because more cargo was thus made available for shipment, more maritime shipping capacity was introduced.
• Because more and more vessels then required berthing space at container terminals, port authorities felt the need to expand wherever, and however, possible.
• Because of these expanded port operations, more dockworkers and more container handling equipment had to be made available in order to deal with the increase in cargo.
• Because those greatly enlarged container vessels are now transporting an increasing amount of cargo to expanded, but crowded, terminals, gate operations were also forced to keep pace with these rapidly developing events.
• Because these “rapidly developing events” required an expanded container delivery system to haul these consumer goods to end-users, more truck drivers and delivery vehicles must be… must be … hmmm. This is where the buck stops. The already existing driver shortage must be the bottleneck we’ve been hearing about. Could this be what they mean by that hazy term “infrastructure”?
Asian manufacturers are far removed from U.S. supply line bottlenecks and have an inexhaustible supply of facilities and manpower, so that segment is not responsible for our logistics nightmares. Smoothly operating shipbuilding facilities worldwide are building several hundred ships per year, so shipbuilding can’t be responsible for our supply line bottlenecks. Shipping lines, being cognizant of consumer demands are ordering larger and larger vessels in order to bring cargo to our shores, so we can’t hold the shipowner responsible for our “infrastructure” problems. Port authorities and terminal operators, under extreme pressure from a massive flow of imports, are expanding as rapidly as the law and space allow, so they’re not the responsible parties either.
If we’ve established that none of the above are responsible for the congestion and chaos that has developed in the distribution chain, are each of these
participating links then … irresponsible? We can make a case for it. We see each of these links in the chain to be oblivious to what is happening to links in the rest of the chain and what is sure to have catastrophic effects on their own apparently immune operations. Chuck Mack pleaded for attention a few months ago. Nobody was listening.