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Feb.6, 2017

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GOVERNMENT WATCH INTERNATIONAL | WASHINGTON | CUSTOMS | SECURITY | REGULATION 50 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE FEBRUARY 6.2017 By Reynolds Hutchins A US COMMERCE Department report pub- lished in January stressed the benefits of collecting port productivity data, creating an awkward juxtaposition with the release in the same week of a tepid report from an industry-led group tasked to help the Department of Transportation do just that. Although the g roup, comprised of shippers, railroads, terminal operators, port authorities, and labor unions, recom- mended that the US government consider analysis of additional performance metrics and approaches to developing a national pro- ductivity database, the suggested metrics are technically outside the scope provided by the congressional mandate that founded the group in the first place. "We hoped the working group would be bold and try to identify key metrics that needed national attention, such as truck turn times, and work toward developing a national methodology for measuring this key factor affecting port performance," said Jonathan Gold, group member and vice president of supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation. But, in the words of the group's labor representatives, "In the end, Congress gave (the Bureau of Labor Statistics) a mandate to have an annual report, and nothing more." The Port Performance Freight Statistics Working Group tasked with helping the DOT develop industrywide metrics to gauge port productivity delivered its recommendations to the agency in December. Of the group's five recommendations, nearly all center on the standardization of existing units of measure- ment. There were no recommendations that the BLS measure any new capacity, through- put, or productivity metrics. The Commerce report is the latest in the back-and-forth between industry-led groups, Congress, and federal agencies that have been struggling to come to terms over what, when, where, and if port productivity data should be collected. Lending its voice to this debate, the Commerce Department said, "Customized information technologies based on a stan - dard set of maritime cargo data elements can improve operational efficiency and cargo status data flow throughout the port commu- nity" and should be considered an industry best practice "that each port community can consider whether they might adopt." The report, the product of information- gathering and a series of port roundtables convened by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, also lists other data-, information-, and technology-related best practices for the nation's ports to consider. It includes a call for new working groups to share information; expanded public- private investment to improve operations, infrastructure, and information technology; and measurable benchmarks to help identify efficiency problems and evaluate the impact of improvements. The report cited specific examples of THE GREAT DIVIDE Two new reports — one from the government and one from industry — take divergent paths to measuring port productivity

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