Biden Takes on Container Quandary to Untangle Supply Chain

By Alan Wolf, YSN

The executive order signed last week by President Joe Biden to combat anticompetitive business practices offers some hope for the backordered furniture and appliance industries.

Within the administration’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy are measures to address the crippling shortage of shipping containers and ongoing seaport logjams that are driving up freight rates and keeping inventory scarce.

See: Container Shortage Adds to Inventory Woes

As Press Secretary Jen Psaki explained during a White House briefing, Biden is calling on the Federal Maritime Commission “to crack down on unjust and unreasonable fees and work with the Justice Department to investigate and punish anticompetitive conduct” within the international shipping sector.

According to a report in ShippingWatch, Psaki cited three major shipping alliances— 2M, THE Alliance and Ocean Alliance — that control upwards of 80 percent of the global container market. Their stranglehold on commerce has contributed to an eightfold spike in the cost of shipping one container, she said, and vendors are being charged massive fees while their goods sit idle at ports.

Daniel Maffei, chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, pledged his support of the executive order and pointed to ongoing efforts by the independent regulatory agency. “I applaud President Biden for his leadership in calling ‘all hands on deck’ to ensure fair competition across the supply chain,” he said in a statement. “In recent months we have increased our scrutiny of the ocean carrier alliances to identify evidence of anticompetitive behavior regarding rates and capacity, and we will continue to do so as the COVID-19 and import surge crisis continues.”