FMC’s Maffei Highlights Supply Chain, Overseas Disruptions

Senate Panel to Vote on Nomination but No Date Scheduled Yet
Daniel Maffei
Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Daniel Maffei at a recent FMC hearing. If confirmed by the Senate, he would remain on the commission through June 2027. (Federal Maritime Commission via YouTube)

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President Joe Biden’s nominee to continue to lead the Federal Maritime Commission told senators investing in infrastructure projects would continue to enhance supply chain connectivity.

Appearing before the Commerce Committee on Feb. 28, Daniel Maffei insisted long-term funding for commercial transportation projects ensures efficiency and safety along vital freight corridors.

Maffei, chairman since 2021, began his tenure with the commission in 2016. Before FMC, he represented New York as a member of Congress. He also served as a senior adviser at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“In terms of the supply chain that we care about — we monitor — it is extraordinarily important that in, my view, that the country continue to make those investments … if you want to build better railroad, if you want to build bridges in Indiana or in Michigan, that helps us on the coasts,” Maffei told the Commerce Committee as he highlighted funding for ports approved in 2021’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. “It helps us everywhere.”

Maffei continued: “It’s one integrated supply chain system. And I think one of the lessons of COVID is that you can even have ports that are operating relatively well, but they’ll still look completely clogged because of the lack of infrastructure or other sorts of things.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, portions of the supply chain and the freight sector experienced various degrees of disruption. The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law dedicates billions of dollars for programs related to the supply chain.

Responding to a questionnaire from the Senate panel, Maffei shared his viewpoint on connectivity challenges the commission has addressed during his tenure: “The pandemic brought into stark relief the issues export shippers must overcome in securing service and underscored the reality that the ‘headhaul,’ the overseas-to-U.S. leg of a voyage, is what is the business priority for ocean carriers.”

He continued, “This must be addressed, and I used my authority as chairman to direct commission resources be prioritized toward identifying ways to assist exporters. I challenged commission staff to think creatively on how we could use our existing authorities to aid exporters, as well as what approaches we could take beyond our authorities.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell


Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) also emphasized the pandemic’s impact on supply chain connectivity. As she put it, “I think the word that we’re using is how do you de-risk your supply chain, meaning we can’t afford to have this level of risk in our supply chains that we saw during COVID.

“But with the offloading of imports, and then leaving the dock without picking up American products and taking it back was the major issue. And in some cases, our agricultural products spoiled on the docks.”

Senators also pressed the nominee on ongoing international events that potentially can disrupt international shipping routes. Central to their concerns are Houthi attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea and low water levels at the Panama Canal.


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RELATED: Analysts: US Transport Better Prepared for Red Sea Disruptions

At the hearing, Maffei addressed the international concerns: “Make no mistake, the ocean-linked supply chains responsible for trillions of dollars in U.S. economic activity remain vulnerable. The Houthis’ unprovoked and unanticipated attacks on commercial vessels transiting the Suez Canal suddenly meant the re-routing of roughly 30% of global container shipping. This comes at the same time as the Panama Canal’s unexpected reduction in capacity.”

The Senate committee has yet to announce a vote on Maffei’s nomination.

If confirmed by the Senate, he would remain on the commission through June 2027. In 2021, the Biden administration tapped Maffei to lead the commission.

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