New slant to ‘working together’

President Trump encouraged working together in his State of the Union address President Trump encouraged working together in his State of the Union address

COMMENT: Politics looms large, again. Infrastructure-spending is a recurring theme in my articles, as is the importance of ports making a lot of noise on this subject, writes Barry Parker.

At the just-completed American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) Planning for Shifting Trade Flows conference in Tampa in the US state of Florida (where I escaped the frigid New York climate in late January), a group of knowledgeable Washington, D.C. insiders stressed that infrastructure is one item that Democrats and Republicans can agree on.

In President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech (a week late due to the earlier partial shutdown of the Federal government), a big theme was the idea of both sides working together — of paramount importance after an incredibly-divisive two years of the Trump presidency.

Seasoned readers may see familiar patterns. However, older opinion articles don’t exactly apply since there are some important differences on the horizon as distribution patterns change — an important topic at the AAPA event.

The ‘working together’ aspect now takes on new meanings and different dimensions for port planners as online shopping, with increased inventories needed closer to consumers, is bringing warehousing back towards urban clusters. When these urban concentrations of shoppers are at or near ports, there are new wrinkles.

After siting distribution centres far out of town, the urgent delivery mandate has pulled warehousing closer in. In New York, the first steps towards congestion pricing have been implemented. These affect ‘for hire’ taxi and Uber-type vehicles in midtown and downtown. Consider the next iterations which will impact delivery vehicles in the evolving distribution matrices.

In New York and other metros (where presumably steps may be taken to ease congestion), ports should be paying attention and, as appropriate and as loud as necessary, weighing in with local governments and with Beneficial Cargo Owners whose supply chains may be whipsawed. Such actions may, in turn, have a blowback effect on the businesses of ports where significant throughputs are serving local markets. It was heartening to hear at the AAPA event that at least one major terminal operator (appearing on a panel discussing distribution issues) was thinking along those lines.

It’s all very complicated. But maybe the positive agreement contagion can spread to local distribution patterns and supply chains — a first cousin of the all-important infrastructure.

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