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Ranking Member Gibbs Statement from Hearing on the Maritime Supply Chain During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Ranking Member Bob Gibbs (R-OH) from today’s online hearing entitled, “Status of the U.S. Maritime Supply Chain During the COVID-19 Pandemic”:

Today we are looking at the impacts of COVID-19 on the maritime supply chain.  However, the coronavirus is not the only large-scale issue causing changes in the supply chain.  Industry consolidation, rapid technological change, and changing trade relations with China also have significant impacts.  I hope we learn about the relative importance of all these issues today.

After 9/11, the United States and much of the world updated their port security infrastructure and the framework under which port security infrastructure is regulated.  Those updates and initiatives were focused on responses to violent physical terrorist acts.  Since that time, first cyber threats and now threats from the coronavirus have posed new challenges to ports and the supply chain, which ports and vessels in the international and domestic trades are a part of.

Like recent cyber incidents, the coronavirus response will pressure test the post-9/11 port security system and determine whether post-9/11 upgrades were sufficient to respond to the wide array of pressures ports and vessel operators now face or if those upgrades were too specific a response to potential terrorist threats. 

In addition to these external threats, there have been significant economic changes post-2008.  These changes are the result of the consolidation of container shipping into increasingly larger vessels owned and operated by ever fewer and more interconnected carriers. 

In addition, the increasing technological sophistication of logistics operations has also led to tighter, more coordinated schedules, and, again, more interconnections within the industry. 

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about the challenges they face in keeping up with rapid changes in the elements of the supply chain.  Of course, we are interested in which of those changes are new and related to coronavirus, and which are the culmination of long-term trends and industry changes.

I appreciate Chair Maloney calling this hearing today and look forward to seeing what we learn.

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