The state of the supply chain

Retail Gets Real Episode 304: The Port of Los Angeles’ Gene Seroka on what it takes to maintain an efficient, sustainable supply chain.
Sheryll Poe
NRF Contributor

The pandemic pushed America’s supply chains to the breaking point, with ports across the country becoming the epicenter of that stress test.

At the height of the pandemic, the Port of Los Angeles was operating at 120% capacity. “From the ship to the shoreside, we were blowing out all the numbers. It was unbelievable. In May of ‘21, we moved a record 1 million TEUs through the port and that had never been done before at a port anywhere in the western hemisphere,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka tells NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay on this episode of Retail Gets Real.

Seroka says his team leaned into collaboration throughout the supply chain — including relationships with suppliers and retailers — to get through that difficult period. “Really these relationships are so sacred that not only have they been in place for decades from a business standpoint, but from an operational look at the port, they’re more important now than ever,” he says.

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Today, the port is operating at around 70%-75% of normal capacity, Seroka says. “Ship backups were eliminated last August, volume flow has been lower than we have seen recently, but fairly consistent.”

Now Seroka is focused on the future, which means emphasizing to Congress the importance of investing in the nation’s ports, including physical infrastructure, technology and green energy initiatives and equipment. “From my standpoint, the best return for the American taxpayer — when it comes to the infrastructure bill, the Inflation Reduction Act — all roads lead to Los Angeles.”

Workforce development is another major investment Seroka plans to put federal money toward. The Port of Los Angeles recently announced its first Goods Movement Training Campus. “Like any other segments of business today in the United States, we’re really looking for workers,” he says. “We’ve got to become an employer of choice across a wide variety of private-sector companies.”

Listen to the full podcast to hear Seroka’s take on collective bargaining negotiations with unions, de-risking the supply chain and delivering value to retailers.


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