OPED- Who put Gene Seroka in charge of the national maritime policy?

By Captain John Konrad (gCaptain) Are the Port of Los Angeles and its Executive Director Gene Seroka Too Big to Go Bankrupt? Last week, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg moved on to inject $ 5 billion in loans to taxpayers to help reduce congestion in the Port of Los Angeles, making it one of the largest government bailouts in maritime history.

“Our supply chains are under strain, with unprecedented consumer demand and disruption from a pandemic combining with the results of decades of underinvestment in our infrastructure,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “Today’s announcement marks an innovative partnership with California that will help modernize our infrastructure, address climate change, accelerate the flow of goods and grow our economy.

We do not know what will be done with this money, but, for the context, 5 billion dollars is much more double the price of the first phase of Singapore’s 20 million TEUs new mega port of Tuas which will soon become the largest container terminal in the world. Many have argued that it was impossible to further develop US ports and shipyards due to the incredibly high prices for waterfront real estate in the United States. There is some truth to this argument given that, on a per acre basis, Los Angeles real estate is the sixth most expensive in the world but … Singapore is number two. Others have argued that building infrastructure in California is impossible due to very strict environmental regulations. Well in Singapore itself chewing gum is highly illegal.

And what about the environment? Rather than hand over the responsibility of the United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) to a shipping expert, Biden appointed a small port environmentalist with no shipping experience whatsoever. What will she do once MARAD realizes that backlogs are already contributing to significantly higher levels of toxic emissions near the Port of LA? What will 24/7 truck operations and other temporary repairs paid for with Buttigieg’s billions of bandage money do to California’s pristine ocean environment? Not to mention the great oil spill that has already occurred under Seroka’s watch.

Also Read: Biden Appoints US Maritime Administrator With Zero Delivery Experience During Worst Maritime Crisis In Decades

Not only do Buttigieg, Seroka, and MARAD not have a plan for the bailout money, but they also don’t understand the simple fact that the problem is not a localized problem. The shipping crisis is a global problem affecting ports around the world, but the focus is on California. This fact proves that this is not a Los Angeles Port crisis or a logistics crisis, it is a global shipping crisis. How much of this $ 5 billion will be returned to MARAD, the entity in charge of “Supporting the technical aspects of America’s shipping infrastructure – things like ships and navigation, port and marine operations, national security, the environment and security”? Well, the main directors of MARAD haven’t even visited Los Angeles and have not published a single press release on the crisis.

And where is the global body responsible for resolving international maritime crises, the UN’s International Maritime Organization (IMO)? They were for the most part silent too and their director of external affairs, the former US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Fred Kenny, has been notoriously absent from discussions at the White House.

The leadership void left by MARAD and IMO was filled by Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, who not only accepts billions of dollars in bailouts but also leads national policy with full support from the House. Blanche, who is pumping a lot more money into an area that is already failing miserably to clean up containers, whose beaches are flooded with oil residue, whose children inhale toxic smoke and which lacks a strategic plan. With Biden’s full support, Seroka implemented a charge on uncollected containers. As of last week, Seroka started billing customers who do not collect the goods on time – delays due to inefficiencies and failures of the port itself – will be billed $ 100 per container, increasing in increments of $ 100 each day beyond the allotted time frame, the ports said in a statement announcing the new measures. According to marine surveyor Mike Schuler, as part of Seroka’s Container Excess Dwell Fee plan, a single container stuck in the port 100 days after the grace period will be billed $ 505,000!

It’s not just money the Biden administration is pouring into the Los Angeles area, it’s huge amounts of political capital. In yesterday’s episode of What happens with the shipment, with maritime expert Dr. Sal Mercogliano – president of the department of history, criminal justice and political science, former merchant seaman and instructor of maritime history, security and industrial policy – he discusses the disproportionate role that ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach reported on the nation’s supply chain crisis, as well as the White House’s new blog on the crisis. Mercogliano is also exploring some possible solutions and options for exercising control over shipping carriers.

Billions of taxpayer dollars may, in fact, be needed to solve this problem. global maritime crisis, but it is clear that Seroka and Mario Cordero – his counterpart in the nearby port of Long Beach – cannot resolve this locally on their own. If the White House is to solve this problem, it must involve the global maritime community and employ real experts in shipping and logistics like Mercogliano, Flexports’ Ryan peterson, Fortis Ross kennedy, former president of the World Economic Forum on the Oceans Nishan Degnarain, Freightwave Lori Ann LaRocco and Timothy dooner to name a few.

Or we can just ask Signapore this experts they hired to do the impossible with about half the bailout money Pete Buttigieg offered Gene Seroka last week.

Also Read: Biden Appoints US Maritime Administrator With Zero Delivery Experience During Worst Maritime Crisis In Decades

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