In our last blog, we explored the increasing gridlock causing congestion along coastal ports. In an effort to keep you informed, EASE continues to monitor and report on the situation. As of October 7, the Marine Exchange of Southern California reported more than 146 ships along the west coast (and counting) waiting to be unloaded. In comparison, it was rare for there to be more than one ship waiting to unload before the pandemic.
What’s Happening Right Now?
- Shortages – Overwhelming shortages are perhaps the most significant factor currently impacting coastal port congestion. Containers, space, equipment, and, most significantly, workers are all in high demand right now. Offloading freight is a time-consuming process, and the ports are currently operating at 65% of their ideal workforce. Some of the positions — like crane operators — require specific qualifications and rigorous training that can be challenging to fill.
- Operations – Part of the blame for coastal congestion can be placed on port operations only functioning during regular business hours. In response, leadership has tried implementing 24/7 operations. This development, however, is causing congestion on the ground, as trucks are backed up both entering and exiting the port. Nearby rail yards are providing some relief but are likely to experience their own inevitable logjam. Impacts of COVID-19 — including new protocols and infected or quarantined workers — are compounding delays.
- Oil Spill – On October 5, a leak in an oil pipeline dumped 126,000 gallons of oil into the ocean off of the coast of Huntington Beach (just south of Long Beach and Los Angeles). This disaster is, undoubtedly, making an already tense situation considerably worse. Officials are allegedly investigating if or how west coast port congestion might have played a factor in the spill.
With the entire supply chain impacted, many people are looking for a definitive source to point blame. Everyone is feeling the impact of this situation, including everyday consumers. In the next blog update, we’ll explore the ripple effect of this port congestion and the critically important role truck drivers play in our supply chain. Read part 3.
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