Cargo ships containing everything from electronics to shoes to canned goods are experiencing unprecedented wait times, having to anchor for days outside major U.S. ports before they can be offloaded due to continued supply chain problems that will impact the coming holiday shopping season.
The bottleneck has its origins in lockdowns and other COVID-19 work restrictions in countries like China, where the bulk of U.S. imports originate, but also other countries and inside the United States itself, manifested by a dearth of truck drivers, longshoremen, and other crucial supply chain workers.
The problem has become so severe the Biden administration announced this week that it has formed a special task force to evaluate the situation and recommend solutions and workarounds as industry experts predict supply chain disruptions are likely to continue well into next year.
The issue has reached critical mass in California, where cargo ships are waiting up to 10 days to be offloaded in the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, which is unprecedented, according to experts. In addition, ships are waiting days off the Port of New York and New Jersey.
In a Friday report, Fox News said that as many as 60 container ships were anchored off California ports.
“It’s like bringing 10 lanes of freeway traffic into five,” Gene Seroka, head of the Port of Los Angeles, told the network.
The problem is not one of supply-and-demand, because as manufacturers in China and other countries are producing record numbers of products, Americans, especially, are buying them in equal numbers. Rather, the issue is that ports are serving as chokepoints while transport companies work at a feverish pace to get goods to market as ships are offloaded.
“It’s more cargo than we’ve ever seen in our lifetime,” Seroka added.
A shortage of truck drivers is said to be causing most of the backlog.
“Folks have to rise to the occasion [and] flex capacity in their workforce just to move cargo out,” Seroka noted.
The lack of drivers has impacted many retail outlets, clearing out inventories and leaving shelves bare while forcing stores around the country to reintroduce pandemic-style purchase limits on an array of products.
Holiday shopping is also going to be impacted, experts are warning.
“Our message right now is, get out and if you see something your child has on his or her list, pick it up now to make sure you have it for the holidays,” said Ed Desmond, executive vice president of external affairs for the Toy Association, told Fox News.
In her daily press conference, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki did not provide specifics about what the administration is doing to address the supply chain problem. She told reporters that “there are a range of issues…the point is, we’re working to address them on several paths and on several fronts.
“I can’t make a prediction of when it will be concluded,” she added. “It’s just a top priority of the president’s.”
Fox News went on to note that on average, modern cargo ships hold between 10,000 and 24,000 containers to demonstrate just how much merchandise is currently stranded offshore in California alone.
Late last month, the Daily Mail reported that more than two dozen cargo ships and oil tankers were waiting to be offloaded outside New York ports.
“The Port of New York and New Jersey appears to be beset by the same congestion caused by the surge in imports that has created a massive logjam of shipping containers waiting to berth in the waters of Los Angeles and Long Beach,” the outlet reported Sept. 25.
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