The sharp increase in online shopping during the pandemic and the lack of carriers and trucks have caused chaos in the terminals of the ports of The Angels and Long Beach, the two largest in the country, now seeking strategies to resolve an unprecedented collapse.
The proximity of the Christmas season has put the problems of the US supply chain in the crosshairs of millions of people, who cannot explain how a power of such caliber has paralyzed their routes of entry of products, mostly from Asia.
The epicenter of this problem is in the neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where 40% of the containers enter the United States, and which have become the graphic representation of the worrying stoppage of US supply.
You only need to walk through the coastal areas of the Los Angeles megalopolis to notice the long lines of huge freighters that anchor in front of these two piers waiting to be able to dock and unload their goods, a task that can now take up to twelve days. according to data provided to Efe by the port of Los Angeles.
TEN HOUR QUEUES AT THE PORTS
Waiting for these goods and products on the mainland are hundreds of carriers a day, such as Gio Marz, who tells Efe from the outskirts of the Los Angeles dock that the queues at the terminals to pick up cargo easily exceed 10 hours.
“There is a lot of congestion: you see many times that drivers arrive at 10 in the morning and leave at 8 or 9 at night with a single charge”explains Marz, truck driver and director of operations for the cargo transport company Atlas Marine, as some cranes move containers behind him.
In his opinion, the main problem lies in the “great increase” in electronic commerce during the pandemic, which grew by 4% globally according to United Nations figures, and in the lack of frames or chassis, the structural element of the trucks designed to support and transport cargo.
LACK OF TRUCKERS OR CHASSIS?
This last point contradicts the version of analysts, companies and economic experts in the US, who consider that one of the greatest difficulties for the supply chain is the lack of carriers.
This narrative “belittle”The effort of the truckers, according to Marz, who ensures that they are present at the terminals to unload the products despite the current difficulties.
While the vice president of supply chain policies of the United States Chamber of Commerce, John Drake, acknowledges the delivery of the carriers and coincides with the lack of chassis, he also explains that the country lost some 100,000 active truckers during the pandemic. after the closure of many transport companies, according to official figures.
“That is part of the reason why we are seeing this accumulation of containers in the ports, because there is simply no capacity in the form of drivers, port workers and warehouses to move the amount of goods that are coming in,” sums up Drake. in an interview with Efe.
But for him the changes in behavior patterns of society during the pandemic have also had a great impact, since people diverted their money destined for travel, physical entertainment and restaurants towards online purchases, multiplying the growth in demand for electronic commerce.
“THERE IS NO LACK OF LABOR, THERE IS LACK OF QUALITY JOBS”
At another terminal in the port of Los Angeles, Efe is served by Adán Álvarez, the spokesperson in this port area for the Teamsters union, which represents 1.4 million workers in the US in the transportation and warehousing industry.
“There is no lack of labor, but there is a lack of quality jobs,” defends Álvarez, who criticizes that the transportation industry “has exploited workers for several decades.”
According to his account, most of the freight forwarding companies that operate in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach prefer to work with self-employed drivers so as not to bear the cost of having them on their payroll.
For the first time in history, however, Álvarez celebrates that these companies “are finding themselves in a situation where they have to attract employees,” which “has given workers an opportunity to demand better conditions.”
SOLUTIONS TO RELIEVE CONGESTION
This cluster of circumstances, both macro and micro, has created the perfect storm for the US to face the first major supply crisis in the modern era of the global supply chain.
Now the Administration of US President Joe Biden and the port authorities are trying to solve this predicament against the clock before it turns into a catastrophe.
The latest measure, announced this Thursday by Biden, consists of keeping the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach open and operational during all hours of every day, 24/7, to face an unprecedented situation.
This announcement, according to Biden, “has the potential to change the rules of the game” in an industry that is key to the day-to-day operation of the United States.
Still, the Port of Los Angeles will not begin operations immediately at all hours of the day, according to its chief executive, Gene Seroka.
“This is not like turning a light switch off and on: you have to solve individual problems so that the 24/7 operation runs smoothly,” Seroka said at a press conference this Thursday, who chose not to give an estimated date for the start of this new schedule.
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