Port of Savannah

ATLANTA – Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp joined Republican chief executives from 14 other states Monday in an initiative suggesting potential solutions to the global supply chain issues to President Joe Biden.

The launch of Operation Open Roads coincided with a roundtable on the issue Kemp convened at the state Capitol with private and public sector logistics experts.

In a chain letter to the president dated Monday, the governors chided the Biden administration for gumming up the free flow of commerce with increased regulations and rulemaking, including imposing a COVID vaccine mandate on private businesses.

“Disruptions due to supply shortage increased 638% during the first half of 2021 for essential products, including semiconductor chips, plastics and cardboard,” the letter stated. “The delay of shipping vessels arriving to North American ports from Asia has ballooned from 14 hours in June 2020 to 13 days in September 2021.

“Supermarkets are receiving approximately 40% of what they order compared to pre-pandemic fulfillments of 90%. Approximately 40% of U.S. shipping containers pass through West Coast ports that sit in a logjam, and yet our East Coast ports remain open for business.”

During the roundtable, Kemp cited steps to expand cargo capacity at the Port of Savannah and other strategies Georgia has undertaken to ease the supply chain crisis including streamlining the licensing process for commercial truck drivers.

After the discussion, Kemp suggested the federal government work with states to lower the eligibility age for commercial truck drivers from 21 to 18, eliminate or suspend taxes that create financial disincentives for the logistics industry and suspend the federal vaccine mandate on businesses he said is contributing to workforce shortages.

A federal appeals in Louisiana blocked the vaccine mandate two weeks ago by issuing an emergency stay.

Biden announced last month that the private operators of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach had agreed to begin working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to reduce the backlog of cargo waiting at those ports and offshore for anchorage space.

The president also has defended his vaccine mandate as a temporary measure to keep America’s workers safe.

Governors from the following states joined Georgia in the Operation Open Roads initiative: Tennessee, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.