Container ship pile up foreshadows bleak holiday season

As container ships continue to pile up outside of several major ports nationwide, industry experts are warning of a “global transport systems collapse,” that may lead to higher prices for Christmas and Thanksgiving while the consumer goods are held up in transit.

The enormous ships are reported to be stacking up due to a variety of reasons including an overall lack of workers to offload the containers and haul the merchandise to its final destination as well as an overall increase in the volume of items.

As of Wednesday evening, a record 66 ships were waiting outside the port of Los Angeles where they are waiting around six days to enter the port as opposed to the typical two days, according to a report from KTLA5.

The Wall Street Journal reported that up to 26 vessels could be seen outside of the Port of Savannah, Georgia late last month.

Aerial footage shows a similar bottleneck off the coast of New York where there are more than a dozen cargo ships and oil tankers waiting in line to offload their goods.
(Video Credit: Daily Mail)

The supply chain concerns come as businesses like Costco have already reimplemented limits on purchasing certain goods like toilet paper, paper towels, and water. The state of Pennsylvania has put alcohol under lock and key with a 2-bottle limit on certain hard-to-find liquors.

Multiple port directors believe the backlog is due to the increase in the volume of goods being transported.

“Business is booming and e-commerce is booming,”  Griff Lynch, executive director of the Savannah port said. “We have seen this transition from just-in-time in supply chains to just-in-case, and that is significantly changing our environment. Because of all this extra freight being imported, it’s creating a backlog from the ship side to the dockside to warehouses and across the whole supply chain.”

Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles explained that record volume was passing through the port.

“We’re still moving more cargo than ever, but it’s not enough due to the buying power of the American consumer,” Seroka said.

However, a trade organization places the blame on the pandemic restrictions that have restricted movement and impacted workers.

International Chamber of Shipping, an organization representing over 80 percent of the world’s international shipping community, posted an open letter to the public to warn of what they believe is a pending crisis and “systems collapse” and called for an end to the pandemic restrictions that have hindered the free movement of products.

“Our calls have been consistent and clear: freedom of movement for transport workers, for governments to use protocols that have been endorsed by international bodies for each sector and to prioritise (sic) transport workers for vaccinations,” the statement read.

“The impact of nearly two years’ worth of strain, placed particularly upon maritime and road transport workers, but also impacting air crews, is now being seen. Their continued mistreatment is adding pressure on an already crumbling global supply chain,” it continued.

The letter included a call for shipping workers to be prioritized for vaccines and to be given a “globally harmonised, digital, mutually recognised vaccine certificate and processes for demonstrating health credentials.”

In other words, they want a worldwide digital vaccine passport.

“We are witnessing unprecedented disruptions and global delays and shortages on essential goods including electronics, food, fuel, and medical supplies. Consumer demand is rising and the delays look set to worsen ahead of Christmas and continue into 2022,” warned the London-based trade association.

“We have all continued to keep global trade flowing throughout the pandemic, but it has taken a human toll. At the peak of the crew change crisis 400,000 seafarers were unable to leave their ships, with some seafarers working for as long as 18 months over their initial contracts,” the non-profit organization explained.

“It is of great concern that we are also seeing shortages of workers and expect more to leave our industries as a result of the poor treatment they have faced during the pandemic, putting the supply chain under greater threat,” it read.

The letter concluded with a call to government officials to “take meaningful and swift action to resolve this crisis now.”


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