The Biden Administration and Department of Transportation announce Tuesday the launch of a new data sharing initiative aimed at helping speed up delivery times in the supply chain, reduce delays, and lower costs for consumers.

Called Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW), the information sharing initiative will pilot a key freight information exchange—a sort of national freight data platform—between various participants in the ‘ship to shelf’ supply chain. The initiave is being launched with eighteen initial participants including public entities, like the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Georpia Ports Authority, and leading private businesses in trucking, warehousing, logistics, and ocean shipping. Expectations are to include more partners going forward.

“These key stakeholders will work together with the Administration to develop an information exchange to ease supply chain congestion, speed up the movement of goods, and ultimately cut costs for Americans,” the Department of Transportation said in a press release.

Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg met with key stakeholders to launch the new initiative.

“Participants acknowledged the current system is underperforming and needs greater investment and more collaboration in creating ship to shelf visibility into the primarily private-sector owned supply chain,” the White House said in a statement. “A more reliable, predictable, and accurate information exchange about goods movement is the hallmark of a globally competitive 21st century goods movement chain and is especially important for small- and medium-sized businesses who lack visibility into the current system. Participants highlighted that this type of digital infrastructure was more important than ever in the face of supply chain disruptions caused by global events like the pandemic and Russia’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine.”

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said the nationwide supply chain data visibility effort “will support system resiliency, improve our trade competitiveness and empower American businesses to get products to market with greater consistency and reduced cost.”

MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, the world’s top container shipping line, is one of two ocean carriers represented in the initial set of participants, along with CMA CGM.

“We are pleased to join and support the FLOW initiative led by the US Department of Transportation as we strongly believe that a common and interoperable digital infrastructure throughout the container shipping industry is a critical step to make supply chains more efficient, secure and resilient,” said MSC Chief Digital and Inforation Officer, André Simha. “Collaborating with governments and other key industry stakeholders is of paramount importance to MSC and there is no doubt that this initiative will strengthen the foundation for the seamless, end-to-end exchange of information we all need to keep global trade moving today – and tomorrow.”

The new initiative comes several months after the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission, the independent agency responsbile for ensuring competitive and reliable international ocean shipping, launched its own maritime data sharing initiative aimed at identifying data constraints that impede the flow of cargo and add to supply chain inefficiencies.

The initiative is expected to propose recommendations for common data standards used by international shipping companies, as well as “access policies and protocols that would streamline information sharing across the ocean supply chain.” Initial findings from the initiative are expected to be presented at a Maritime Data Summit in June 2022. It was unclear if the two initiatives are connected.

FLOW participants include:

  • Port of Long Beach
  • Port of Los Angeles
  • Georgia Ports Authority*
  • Gemini Shippers Association
  • DCLI
  • FlexiVan
  • Prologis
  • MSC*
  • C.H.Robinson*
  • Target*
  • True Value
  • Land ‘O Lakes
  • FedEx
  • UPS

*denotes virtual participant

Copyright 2022 by Mike Schuler