JEFFERSON CITY — A new report studying pandemic-related supply chain problems recommends that Missouri become an American hub for building shipping containers.
According to a draft copy of the report issued by Gov. Mike Parson’s Supply Chain Task Force, the state could subsidize companies that build the steel containers, which are used to transport a variety of goods via boat, train and truck.
“One of the many impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic was the slowdown in production and shipment of newly manufactured shipping containers, which led to further congestion and trade imbalances throughout the globe,” the report notes.
The task force, which is is co-chaired by Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna and Director of the Office of Workforce Development Mardy Leathers from the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, has been meeting since earlier this year to determine how to tackle problems that have led to a scarcity of some products and a slowdown in global shipping and production.
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In addition to shipping containers, there also is a shortage of the trailer chassis used to pull them behind trucks.
The solution: Spend money to bring that production to Missouri.
“There is an opportunity for Missouri to incentivize the production of container and chassis manufacturing in the state by providing financial/tax incentives, developing workforce training programs specific to the industry, and guidance in selection of optimal sites that can leverage the state’s access to multimodal transportation modes,” the report said.
According to the draft, the shipping container industry is heavily controlled by companies in China, which are propped up by the government. Not only were fewer made during the pandemic because of lockdowns, but fewer containers were shipped. And, in a further blow, those that made it to the U.S. were not returned to China to be used again.
That has led to states on the East and West coasts seeking alternative storage places for the orphaned containers.
The draft says the problem has hurt Missouri too.
“While the coverage of impacts of this crisis have been focused on the coastal deep water ports, the shortage is even more pronounced in Missouri where turnaround time is critical to get the containers (empty or full) back to the coast for the ship,” the report notes.
In addition, a shortage could hurt the state as it works to build itself up as a site for a container-on-barge port.
The state budget includes more than $30 million to develop or upgrade existing ports, including one in Jefferson County that is being eyed by a Louisiana-based container-on-vessel operation on the Mississippi River.
“The shortage of containers will be a challenge for the state as it pursues container-on-barge and container-on-vessel opportunities in the near future,” the report said.
Among those on the panel are Chris Gutierrez, president, Kansas City SmartPort Inc.; Mary Lamie, executive vice president, Multi Modal Enterprises, Bi-State Development; Caitlin Murphy, founder and CEO, Global Gateway Logistics; Dustin Quesenberry, vide president of operations, Contract Freighters Inc. (CFI); and Todd Spencer, president of Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
The task force is accepting public comments on its proposals through Friday.