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Cargo Delays Pile Up As California Ports Stay Clogged

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Flying over the massive freight dockyard in Los Angeles on a sunny day | Cargo Delays Pile Up As California Ports Stay Clogged | featured

California ports are having trouble managing shipping delays. Despite extensive backlogs, the busiest US port complex has yet to adjust its operating hours in order to pick up the slack. In contrast, major ports in Europe and Asia already work around the clock even before the pandemic. 

RELATED: How the Coronavirus Crisis Affects Tanker Shipping And Stocks

Backlogs Across Entire Distribution Line, Not Just California Ports

As a result of the business-as-usual schedule, many US companies are finding themselves low on stock. Nike already accepted that it won’t have enough sneakers to sell for the holidays. Costco recently announced a limit on toilet paper purchases. Even artificial Christmas tree prices rose by 25%. 

The delays and backlogs are not exclusive to California ports. Each stop in the US distribution network system is currently experiencing delays. Shipping lines, port workers, truckers, warehouses, railways, and retailers.

They all struggle with worker shortages. They also blame one another for delays. In addition, they have yet to agree if implementing a 24/7 schedule will help reduce the backlogs.  

California Ports Remain On Regular Schedules Despite Pandemic

American terminals such as California ports have yet to adapt to increasing imports brought about by companies restocking products made abroad. As a result, tens of thousands of containers remain stuck at Los Angeles and Long Beach terminals.

These two California ports serve as a gateway to more than 25% of the country’s imports. In fact, around 60 ships are waiting in the water. It can take up to three weeks before getting permission to dock. 

However, California ports can’t adjust their operating hours to meet the demand. According to Uffe Ostergaard, Hapag-Lloyd AG North America president, it won’t be enough. “With the current work schedule, you have two big ports operating at 60%-70% of their capacity.

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That’s a huge operational disadvantage,” he said. Los Angeles and Long Beach operate independently. While Long Beach is considering working multiple shifts to operate 24 hours a day, LA will wait for better conditions before doing so.

According to Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, they’ll wait for warehouses and truckers to operate 24/7 before they do so. “It has been nearly impossible to get everyone on the same page towards 24/7 operations,” he said.

They’re Playing The Blame Game

Many shipping managers blame truckers for the delay in shipment. Many drivers fail to show up at their scheduled pick-up time. This causes cargo to accumulate at yards. It also prevents workers from getting the next shipment ready. 

Meanwhile, truckers blame terminal congestion. They insist that delays at one appointment can cause them to miss the next. In addition, truckers say that shipping lines aren’t doing enough to clear out the towers of empty containers taking up space at the docks.

Longshoremen Want Empty Containers Gone Before They Agree to a Third Shift

Currently, longshore policy consists of two shifts: 8 am to 4 pm and 6 pm to 3 am. The five-hour window is available but is rarely used, owing to it being 50% more expensive. Cargo pickups on Saturday are also rare, being charged as premium shifts. In addition, no work shifts are available on Sundays.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents the California ports dockworkers, agreed to have members work the third shift or on weekends.

However, port authorities must ensure that empty containers leave the port. This gives workers more space to unload items. “Congestion won’t be fixed until everyone steps up and does their part,” said Frank Ponce De Leon, an ILWU committeeman.

“The terminal operators have been underutilizing their option to hire us for the third shift,” he added. However, night shifts remain a nonstarter. The ports will need to make adjustments, like opening an all-night warehouse. 

Watch the 23 ABC News video reporting that supply delays reported due to congestion at Los Angeles, Long Beach ports:

What needs to happen for US ports to sift to 24/7 mode and help reduce backlogs?

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How will port delays get a solution? Will US ports adapt to Europe and Asian ports and implement a 24/7 shift to accommodate backlogs?

Let us know what you think about the prospect of stock shortages this holiday season. Leave your comments below.  

12 Comments

12 Comments

  • JoAnn Leichliter says:

    One thing is certain: globalism doesn’t work well. The U.S. has the capacity to produce much of what we import (toilet paper, for Pete’s sake!?), but has become habituated to “lower cost” (read cheaper) foreign products. Perhaps that would be a good habit to break, now that the economy is in the crapper anyway.

  • Dor Yeager says:

    Wasn’t 2020 bad enough, We the people have enough to deal with !!! REALLY ?? just another stress to add to the list 🙁 Guess this is the norm SAD American !!!

  • The professor says:

    I hope those container ships stay in the harbor for months…The cargo is mostly from China and you know what they gave us already the The cargo is mostly from China and you know what they gave us already the effen Virus ……an and this is partially our fault for buying Chinese products when are we going to realize that this is a communist country who kills and tortures their own citizens

  • Oscar Virgil Pearson says:

    How about doing the job your are paid to do or is that a new concept.

  • Lucien E Forbes says:

    As greed drives our government and the financial markets, so does it drive the much hated unions. Until the Longshoremen and Teamsters are broken, so will America as a whole.

  • Statesman Patriot says:

    Lucien E Forbes, you are correct. And because of these unions, cost of goods is about 30% higher than necessary. Free market labor can be fair and competitive.
    Get rid of unions and we will be able to compete with the CPP!!

  • Statesman Patriot says:

    Sorry, meant CCP

  • Sam says:

    Another good way to punish retail businesses, but most of the crap is probably from China. Our corrupt politicians love China. In fact most of the world is in bed with China. That’s why our politicians (both sides) and others across the world, have nothing to say about the wjole corona bs. By the way, start researching docs regarding CDC, North Carolina, DARPA. They were going to do this in 2003. Countries are getting 0 % interest loans to make their citizens “comply” with covid “policies.” Just like the school boards. There is SO much money flying around now due to covid, it’s disgustong. Double dose of global genocide. First the virus, then to finish it off, the “vaccine.” I know a lot of people that don’t feel well after the shot. Some are very sick, keep testing negative on the “covid tests” though. Three of my friends and one family member are experiencing recurrent cancer.

  • The professor says:

    I was in the Teamsters for 30 years I’ve got a nice pension and my Social Security ….. those of you that have never been in the union do not know anything about solidarity ….Henry Ford had his workers shot during labor strikes….. shot!!!!James riddle Hoffa was one of the most greatest labor organizers in the world next to Walter Reuther …….Henry Ford fusion two things he feared God and Walter Reuther….. I would unload nonunion drivers trucks and they would make comments about the Teamsters … I would say to them if it wasn’t for the Teamsters you wouldn’t be making what you’re making ….and then they didn’t understand that and if you don’t understand it you’re just a stupid as they were ….. read your history why did unions come into power because of corporate greed because of tactics that put the workingman in a bind …. they would take advantage of their workers that’s why we have unions to protect ourselves but these new people millenniums they don’t understand that ….go walk the picket line sometime you’ll feel better….and you’ll make a lot of friends

  • Roger KIdd says:

    All I see hear is political Blah, Blah, Blah, I live by the port of L.A. Try to use the freeways into the ports. they are terrible, packed with trucks in every lane. The only way to fix this mess is for “all Involved” to sit and figure this out. The Longshoremen, Truck drivers need to go on a 24/7 program, but at what cost ? labor will not do that with out extensive pay for night work,(their pay at night should be in the same format as Hospitals and not the huge overtime pay they now get.) The Access to the ports needs to change, IE rail service to local inland points and distributed by truck from there. And xo on. I have spent my entire career in this business and seen all the problems first hand. Freight Delivery rates have gone up buy 1,000 % just in the last few years & we are paying the bills in what we buy. It is a travesty to see the bickering between all these people & it needs to stop. My career started in college from just as containerization started till 2years ago when I finally Retired. Many, many headaches ago.

  • Fa'a says:

    Move the international port to Florida as it is manage by a Republican Governor who believes in Capitalist. Democrats don’t believe in Capitalist so they don’t care about the needs of the people. They only care about themselves and not anyone else. That is why they make laws, rules and mandates for others and not for them.

    I put down for all parties involve to get together to work out a solution. But of course with a Demoncrat Governor and the Unions. They will only discuss what is good for themselves and not what is good for the Country and the People. That is why I suggest moving it to Florida as Republicans think about what is good for the Country and the People and not for themselves. This is not political but these are facts starting from the President of the United States to the Governor of the California based on their actions. What is in it for me? Law, Rules and Mandate for you and not for me.

  • SweetLyfeExpressLLC says:

    I’m glad we started a trucking company when we did. We have drivers pulling these containers at fast as they can. We have owner operators but they run under our authority. East coast isn’t this bad. They told us it would take at the least a million new truck drivers to get this moving. We pull from Savannah Port.

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