Industry members flock to maritime agency’s supply chain innovation teams

The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) said there has been no shortage of container-shipping industry members willing to participate in its initiative to identify ways to overcome supply chain obstacles caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“There was a very strong, positive response to the announcement of the teams with many inquiries about how to participate,” said FMC Commissioner Rebecca Dye in a statement. “Those volunteering for this effort are industry leaders and their contributions will be valued and appreciated.”

Dye estimated that more than 50 industry stakeholders have already sought to join the FMC initiative’s teams.

Last Tuesday, the commission authorized Dye to begin working with representatives from the container-shipping industry to identify “operational solutions to cargo delivery challenges” caused by the pandemic.

The FMC order, Fact Finding 29 International Ocean Transportation Supply Chain Engagement, highlighted the commission’s statutory mandate to “ensure efficient and economic transportation systems for ocean commerce.”

Dye said the Supply Chain Innovation Teams will begin work this week to identify what actions can provide “immediate relief to the most pressing challenges the American freight delivery system faces from COVID-19 related disruptions.”

The commissioner has, so far, asked three questions of each team member:

  • What can the FMC do to provide relief or assistance to mitigate negative impacts on the supply chain related to COVID-19?
  • What can companies involved in ocean cargo delivery do to respond to existing supply chain challenges and bottlenecks?
  • What can supply chain participants do to strengthen the overall performance of the American freight delivery system?

“The individuals serving on these teams are committed to minimizing disruptions to the nation’s cargo delivery system and will be prepared to offer practical solutions about what must be done to promote the competitive advantage of our supply chain networks,” Dye said.

Dye told American Shipper that she anticipates at least 10 teams will participate in Fact Finding 29. However, each team is expected to consist of no more than five members, and in respect of the CDC guidelines, all team meetings will be conducted twice daily remotely, she said.

“While we are not able to accommodate every request to serve on a team, we know there is a deep pool of knowledge and experience that exists among others who work in the freight delivery industry,” Dye said. “We encourage these experts to also contribute by submitting comments and proposals.”

“The commission has used the innovation teams successfully in the past to gain a better understanding of complex supply chain challenges, and I have every reason to think that the model will be productive in this case as well,” said John Butler, president and CEO of the World Shipping Council, whose carrier members represent 95% of the global container trade.

“The nature and magnitude of the global supply chain disruptions associated with COVID-19 are greater than anything that we have seen in recent times, and creating solutions will require both humility and focus: humility to recognize that it is easy to make things worse by jumping at easy fixes, and focus to concentrate effort where it is most  critical — keeping cargo flowing through our ports,” Butler told American Shipper.

Rich Roche, vice president of international transportation for Mohawk Global Logistics and a member of the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America’s Transportation Committee, also applauded the FMC’s initiative to work with industry to find solutions to the COVID-19-induced supply chain disruptions. 

“The teams represent a cross-section of stakeholders including terminals, carriers, labor, truckers, intermediaries, equipment suppliers and the shipping public,” Roche said. “We don’t want anyone to be taken advantage of during this national crisis. Common sense must prevail.”

Comments may continue to be submitted to the commission by non-team members by email at

The FMC’s Fact Finding 29 has no specific deadline. The initiative will continue until the commission votes to end it, an agency spokesman said.