The Blame Game

Here’s what we came across in a recently published study of container port problems:

“Ports and their supporting distribution networks are complex entities. For instance, the port itself actually consists of three primary units: the port authority that manages port development and serves as facility landlord; the terminal operators that manage port operations; and the longshore labor that provides container loading and unloading services. These internal yet relatively autonomous stakeholders influence various dimensions of port capacity. Furthermore, several external stakeholders, including railroads and dray truck carriers that transport containers in and out of the port, also significantly impact port capacity. Governments at federal, state and local levels as well as shippers and local communities have further capacity influences. Given the internal and external stakeholders, a review of previous research must thus not only focus on the ports but also expand externally to railroads, truck carriers, governments, and beyond.”

The data gathered in this latest review came from a survey seeking the opinions of port authorities with respect to rapidly rising container volumes. The survey results revealed a general agreement among authorities that; inadequate capacity issues will become a greater concern in the next 10 years; port congestion will be more pronounced; and external stakeholders such as truck carriers and labor unions will be adversely affected by the ports’ inability to cope with increasing volumes. The conclusion reached as a result of the survey came as no surprise. The results, it was stated, point to a need for the immediate and coordinated approach among stakeholders to address imminent port capacity issues. And where have we heard that before.

In an earlier commentary we spoke about, and we criticized, those in the supply chain who assign blame to others for delays and breakdowns. Here’s another interesting paragraph appearing in this latest survey:

“The above findings do not belittle the significance of internal capacity factors, but the ports are clearly more concerned with the capacity influences of other stakeholders, implying that they perceive that their ultimate capacity is by and large out of their control. This directly points to the need for a multiple stakeholder approach to address port capacity problems. The ports are clearly indicating that capacity can not be expanded without significant participation from longshore unions (cost, capacity, efficiency), government (roads), rail (local, ondock) and truck carriers (local drayage). Terminal operators (capacity, technology) participation will also be important.”

Now some questions:
• How can the railroads be blamed for inefficient and outmoded terminal operations?
• How can truck drivers be blamed for inefficient and outmoded terminal operations?
• How can longshoremen be blamed for inefficient and outmoded terminal operations?
• Would you care to guess who paid to have this survey conducted?