Boston Globe: NFI urges Congress to put pressure on shipping companies

Boston Globe Report: Mass. lawmakers urge resumption of shipping at Port of Boston

By Hiawatha Bray and Anissa Gardizy November 12, 2021

Six members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation have signed letters to three global shipping companies, urging them to reverse a recent decision to stop making port calls at Massport’s Conley Container Terminal.

The letters sent to COSCO Shipping, CMA CGM, and Evergreen Shipping Agency state that the companies decided to skip regular shipments to Boston starting next week (Nov. 14) to focus on speeding up deliveries at larger ports, including New York, amid the global supply-chain crisis. Shipments to Boston are not expected to resume until Feb. 2, according to an online marine shipping schedule, the lawmakers wrote.

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, and Representatives Ayanna Pressley, William Keating, Jake Auchincloss, and Stephen Lynch signed the letters, which are dated Nov. 4
“As we face these challenges together, I urge you to make every effort to restore this service to Boston as soon as possible in an effort to support New England businesses and keep good paying jobs in Boston,” they wrote.

The lawmakers said the decision to bypass Boston will impact companies that depend on shipments during the holiday season and will force local manufacturers to wait on truck deliveries from ports located hundreds of miles away. They added that it undermines “massive investments” made in the Port of Boston and will take away work from dockworkers during the winter months.
The shipping companies, which are part of the Ocean Alliance coalition, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The working port of Boston is a great place to do business, but the supply chain crisis, and its ever changing nature, is forcing shipping lines to take some temporary measures they wouldn’t normally pursue,” said a statement issued by Massport. “As always, we appreciate the support of the congressional delegation.”

The National Fisheries Institute, a major seafood trade organization, urged Congress to put pressure on the shipping companies. Many of the group’s members are major seafood importers and exporters, and supply-chain delays pose a major challenge in shipping highly perishable merchandise requiring constant and costly refrigeration.

NFI member Kim Gorton, chief executive of Slade Gorton & Co. of Boston, said the cancelled Ocean Alliance ships were supposed to deliver seafood to her company from producers in China and Vietnam.

“My hub is Boston,” said Gorton. “So not having anything coming into Boston is problematic.”

For example, Gorton pays rent for space in refrigerated warehouses. That money goes to waste if the fish is offloaded in New York. In addition, the cargo must be trucked to Boston. With the ongoing shortage of trucks and drivers, this adds several days to the process. Gorton must pay extra storage fees to the port, as well as a fee for delayed return of the shipping container. In addition, highway weight limits in Connecticut are lower than those in Massachusetts, Gorton said. So her company must unload the seafood and redistribute the loads among a larger number of trucks before making the trip to Boston.

All the while, said Gorton, a newly remodeled port in Boston with ample cargo capacity is largely unused.

“We’re trying to help our congressional delegation understand that the $850 million investment our government has made in the Port of Boston is for naught at this point,” she said.