Los Angeles port logjam could leave holiday shelves bare

Holidays

LOS ANGELES (NewsNation) — There are a near-record 146 cargo ships off the California coast either anchored or at berth, laden with billions of dollars worth of merchandise. The proposed Biden infrastructure bill includes $17 billion for port modernization, but the cargo jam is expected to stretch into next summer at least, and not much can be done about it.

About half of all imports come into Southern California, but it’s now a major choke point in the global supply chain. The mess was partly triggered by a COVID outbreak among dockworkers at the start of the pandemic. Staffing is healthier now, but crews can only work so fast. Even when cargo is finally offloaded, there are other kinks in the supply chain.

“We’re also storing thousands of empty containers at our yards because we don’t have the ability to return them,” said Matt Schrap, CEO Harbor Trucking Association. “The marine terminals are either out of space or they’ve reached the allocation limit the steamship lines have given them for that particular type of container.”

There are 76 container ships carrying clothes, furniture, and electronics that have been stuck at ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach for nearly three months. They’re carrying 14,000 containers with about $100,000 of merchandise each. According to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, one ship waiting offshore arrived from Asia on September 5.

“Once cargo gets here to L.A., it’s like taking 10 lanes of freeway traffic and bringing it down to five lanes,” said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of L.A. “We’re still moving more cargo than ever, but it’s not enough because of the buying power of the American consumer.”

That traffic offshore may have increased the odds of an anchor mishap, which is the suspected cause of an oil pipeline rupture last week. There are also widespread warnings about the impact on the holidays.

“We’re certainly hoping that more containers come in both for the major retailers and to help some of these small stores,” said Ed Desmond, executive vice president of the Toy Industry Association. “But one issue that we do fear is you may not see the same breadth of selection.”

Retailers such as Walmart, Target, Costco, and Home Depot are chartering their own vessels in an effort to beat the global supply chain disruptions that threaten to harm the retail industry’s holiday season.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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