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Aug.8, 2016

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GOVERNMENT WATCH INTERNATIONAL | WASHINGTON | CUSTOMS | SECURITY | REGULATION 30 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE AUGUST 8.2016 By Reynolds Hutchins JUST MINUTES INTO the first meeting of the Port Performance Freight Statistics Working Group, it was clear U.S. shippers shouldn't expect an easy path toward the creation of nationwide metrics to measure U.S. port productivity. The immediate roadblocks, stalemates and impasses the group confronted at its July 15 session highlight the deep divisions among the members of the congressional working group and the challenges they'll face in the months ahead. The group is tasked by Congress to advise the Bureau of Transportation Statistics by Dec. 4 on how to best monitor port produc- tivity on a national basis. "I think we all recognized going in (that) this was not going to be an easy process. This is something new that hasn't been done before," said Jon Gold, vice president of sup- ply chain at the National Retail Federation. The NRF, the nation's largest retail lobbying group, representing more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, helped spearhead the campaign on Capitol Hill for more federal oversight over port productiv- ity. Shippers wanted to get Congress and the Obama administration more involved after the protracted labor dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and waterfront employers on the U.S. West Coast, which cost the retail industry some $6 billion, produced historic conges- tion and helped shave off 0.2 percent of GDP in the first quarter of 2015. "Legislators have no visibility to what's actually happening at our ports," Gold said. Their efforts helped to create the Port Performance Freight Statistics Program, which was part of the FAST Act highway bill passed last year. Under the law, the fed- eral government's Bureau of Transportation Statistics must produce an annual report to Congress on the state of port productivity at the nation's top 25 ports. The legislation, however, does not detail what metrics or standards that report will use. That's up to the congressional working group. The Department of Transportation and BTS officials said many, if not all, of the metrics involved "common accessible data" that could be compiled in the annual report to Congress. That includes terminal cargo tonnage; terminal acreage; vessel calls, sizes dwell times; and berth numbers and lengths. There is also "potential common accessible data" that includes terminals' tons per acre, tons per berth, vessel calls per berth, and tons moved per hour. It will be up to the group to decide by Dec. 4 which metrics will be used. But far from bringing men and women from differ- ent industries and backgrounds together to work toward a common goal, the con- gressional working group seemed to make strange bedfellows of men and women wholeheartedly opposed to collecting any data whatsoever. Port authorities, labor unions and rail- roads — which typically are accustomed to more adversarial relationships in the nation's capital and on the nation's waterfronts — were more inclined to debate the group's very exis- tence than the merits of various metrics. In the words of John Gray, senior vice president of policy and economics at the Association of American Railroads, "Just because Congress says go collect data doesn't make it a good idea." The AAR told The Journal of Commerce after the meeting that the group doesn't have a formal position on the initiative — only that "there still remains unanswered fundamental questions that need to be addressed in order for more productive dis- cussions to take place." Gray, alongside labor reps from the AFL-CIO and International Longshore and Warehouse Union as well as at least one port authority, argued that a national database of port productivity statistics would not only be cumbersome, but it would also inevita- bly be used against them. The AFL-CIO and ILWU are no longer tied to one another, but the International Longshoremen's Associa- tion still is part of the AFL-CIO. Jeffrey Pavlak, legislative representative for the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, said some metrics that measure workforce productivity — such as crane moves per hour — were simply off the table. Pavlak also voiced concern that the data collected would be used during contract negotiations to undermine collective bargaining. "Despite claims by corporate shippers, the port metrics they are pursuing are not harmless statistical tools," Pavlak said. "We know this because the productivity metrics that shippers want collected are the same type of data they have tried to use against workers in past disputes." Though, as Paul Bea, a maritime consul- tant at PHB Public Affairs in Washington, wrote in a note in the days just after the working group's meeting: "Everyone at the bargaining table — unions and management alike — would already have every potentially useful statistics at their disposal." Pavlak, however, argued that the FAST Act's own legislative history underscores labor's reluctance to agree to routine port productivity reports. Both prescriptive port metrics and monthly reporting requirements dur- ing maritime union contract negotiations were originally included in three separate transportation-related bills considered by Congress last year, before the eventual pass- ing of the FAST Act. That includes a port performance bill from Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the Commerce Committee's markup of the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act, as well as the PORT PERFORMANCE GROUP STYMIED Monitoring U.S. port productivity will involve metrics that will be a challenge to create

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