DeSantis touts Florida ports amid supply chain delays

With the White House saying incremental progress has been made in alleviating the bottleneck in the global supply chain, Gov. Ron DeSantis took another swipe Tuesday at the Biden administration as he pitched using Florida ports for cargo ships logjammed in California.

"We’re here. We have capacity," DeSantis said of Florida’s 15 ports and related transportation infrastructure during an appearance at Jacksonville’s JAXPORT.

DeSantis, who has made a hallmark of challenging the White House on a variety of issues, highlighted state spending on roads, ports, rail infrastructure and workforce training during Tuesday’s appearance, along with touting incentives packages offered by state ports to try to entice shipping companies to reroute operations.

"We have to make sure people can go Christmas shopping as normal. We have to make sure that all the necessities are there," DeSantis said. "And if it's because ships are sitting off the coast somewhere else, and they can be rerouted here, and we can get all those shelves stocked, then we want to be a part of that solution."

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed to progress in dealing with the supply chain issues. She cited further partnerships between labor and port leaders, noting the Union Pacific Railroad is joining the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in going to 24-hour operations, while the amount of cargo sitting on docks for 13 days or longer has been cut in half.

"The president is satisfied that progress continues to be made," Psaki told reporters. "And one of the reasons that there has been so much traffic in a lot of these ports is because there are more goods that are being ordered by people across the country, people have more money, expendable resources, their wages are up, more people are working than they were a year ago. And port to port it's different, but statistically, some of these ports have 20 percent, 30 percent increased volume as a result of that."

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The supply-chain problems have spurred heavy political debate, with Republicans criticizing the Biden administration’s handling of the issue --- including DeSantis and others raising the specter of the problems affecting Christmas shopping.

Experts offer a variety of causes for the slowdown in the supply chain, including companies being unable to rehire at a pace that matches the increased demand for goods as people emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns; a lack of skilled port workers, truck drivers and rail operators; and logistics capacity problems at U.S. ports that were evident before the pandemic.

Still, experts don't expect the backlog to end any time soon, which could limit on-shelf shopping options and further increase prices.

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And while a shift from West Coast ports to Florida would involve a multitude of logistics, including freight time and costs to pass through the Panama Canal, DeSantis said it was a solution to the problems.

"Our seaports are used to operating around the clock, they're used to moving cargo for American families, farmers and businesses," DeSantis said. "And we think that this is a great solution given our capacity for some of the problems you see in other parts of the country."

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DeSantis’ was joined in the appearance by state Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault and port officials. The Florida Ports Council on Oct. 6 also encouraged shipping firms to consider the state’s ports.

"We want your business," Port Tampa Bay CEO Paul Anderson said. "Reroute your thinking. Reroute your cargo to come to Florida. We stand ready to offer you incentives that will make it ideal and cost savings, so that these men and women in our ports can move your cargo to get to consumers, so Gov. DeSantis can late-shop and still get what he needs."