Congestion at ports is creating a crisis for the country’s medical providers. The Health Industry Distributors Association (HIDA) told American Shipper that between 8,000 and 12,000 containers filled with millions of essential medical supplies are being delayed.
According to HIDA, these containers are on average 37 days late.
“COVID is always with us and it is difficult to predict the evolution of particular variants and their impact on supplies,” said HIDA President and CEO Matthew J. Rowan. “So the best strategy is for the supply chain to maintain readiness and for distributors and manufacturers to continue to get medical supplies to suppliers. “
Federal Maritime Commissioner Carl Bentzel told American Shipper he had received letters and held follow-up meetings with representatives from HIDA, the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) and the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA), all highlighting the need shipping abroad and begging for help. for port managers to identify and prioritize medical supply containers for quick pickup.
“Although the CMF does not have the legal authority to prioritize freight, these containers contain essential products for the health, safety and well-being of our country’s frontline medical workers, as well as patients.” , said Bentzel. “President [Daniel] Maffei realizes this and we at the CMF have had several meetings on the issue and are committed to doing what we can to help healthcare providers receive these vital products.
“The Biden administration has also helped, and we are in contact with John Porcari [port envoy to the White House Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force] on the project to ensure the delivery of essential health products to American hospitals ”
Bentzel said he contacted Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka and Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero, as well as SSA Marine, the second largest container terminal operator in the Americas, to find means of prioritizing the cargo and accelerating its movement inland.
In March 2020, Seroka was chosen by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to be responsible for City of Los Angeles logistics and he oversaw the Logistics Victory Los Angeles (LoVLA) response effort which assisted obtain essential personal protective equipment (PPE) and emergency services. supplies to healthcare and supply chain workers.
“These port managers were the first to identify and move containers full of PPE and other health care and disinfection supplies at the onset of the pandemic,” Bentzel said. “Gene and Mario immediately agreed to help and set up teams at the port to move the product. They are in the process of identifying the containers. SSA is in the process of labeling the containers and using peel piles for expedited pickup.
Seroka told American Shipper, “These supplies are more vital than ever as the omicron variant spreads across the country. HIDA has contacted us to identify the containers to be shipped. We use our digital system to identify these containers so that we can move them as quickly as possible.
“Unfortunately, these boxes are mixed with the thousands of import containers arriving at the port. The sooner we know when these containers are arriving, the more effective we can be in fending off these valuable imports. “
Cordero said: “Since the start of the pandemic, the Port of Long Beach, in partnership with the marine terminal operators and the stevedoring workforce, has been able to expedite shipments of PPE, supplies medical and medical equipment. Everyone has worked together to help these life-saving shipments get to hospitals and healthcare professionals as quickly as possible. This remains a priority for the entire port community.
One of the terminals playing a key role in this supply chain mission, according to Bentzel, is SSA Marine Terminals.
Sal Ferrigno, vice president of SSA Marine Terminals, explained that the terminals electronic platform is used to identify containers.
“In an effort to ensure the availability of essential supplies for our country, we have prioritized medical supplies at our terminals,” Ferrigno said. “The solution is simple with the help of eModal. We are able to identify containers with medical equipment before they arrive.
“Once unloaded from a ship, the containers are given a priority appointment where, once they leave the gate, they will be taken to their destination. The process is safe, efficient, and fast, especially when you consider the omicron virus outbreak and the need for medical supplies. “
According to the HIDA transit analysis, congestion along the east coast is also hampering the logistical efforts of medical providers. HIDA told American Shipper that Savannah, Georgia had the most delays, followed by New York and New Jersey.
“We spoke with Sam Ruda from the Port of New York / New Jersey and Griff Lynch from the Port of Savannah and warned them something like this was going to happen to them,” said Bentzel. “We are in the early stages of these ports. “
Bentzel also communicated with the World Shipping Council on this logistics mission.
“I plan to do a presentation to their members on our need for their assistance in the accelerated movement of this essential cargo,” said Bentzel. “In this insistence, we do not have adequate levels of US flag vessels under ultimate government control to assist, but I am asking for support for the delivery of this cargo.
“The success of this initiative must involve the World Shipping Council and potentially other US coastal ports such as Savannah and New York / New Jersey. At first, they were responsive, and hopefully progress on the West Coast can lead to a heightened national effort. HIDA says hospitals urgently need these products. All facets of the maritime community should work together on this medical logistics mission. “