Ports in Southern California have seen a surge due to the increase of imports from China. However, this has led to a backlog at American ports and severe problems with cargo deliveries. This can be attributed to many factors such as increased trade, lack of infrastructure or just bad luck for the industry
The “port delays due to covid” is a problem that has been present for a while. The Southern California Ports are struggling to trim cargo backlog as Omicron surges.
As infections among Southern California dockworkers mount, the Covid-19 Omicron variety is sabotaging attempts to clear a backlog of approximately 100 container ships at the nation’s busiest port complex.
According to the Pacific Maritime Association, some 800 dockworkers—roughly one-tenth of the daily labor at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach—were unavailable for Covid-related reasons as of Monday. Workers who tested positive for the virus, were quarantined or awaiting test results, or who were sick were among the absentees.
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The group, which sources labor for West Coast port owners, claimed the number of daily worker illnesses has climbed significantly in recent weeks, rising from a few instances per day to dozens, and then to roughly 150 per day last week.
Due to the shortage, two container ships at the port complex received fewer dockworkers than requested on Monday, and 13 ships received no workers to load or unload cargo, effectively halting operations. According to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which tracks ship movements in the region, 102 container ships were waiting for a berth at the port complex on the same day.
Hundreds of ships have been waiting weeks or months to offload cargo at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach due to a surge in imports that has overburdened logistical systems that bring products to American markets. In late November, the backlog surpassed 100 ships, and on New Year’s Day, it hit a new high of 106 ships. It was rare for more than one ship to wait for a berth before the epidemic.
The spike in coronavirus infections, according to Alan McCorkle, CEO of Yusen Terminals LLC at the Port of Los Angeles, has prolonged a staff shortage that started during the Christmas and New Year holidays, cutting productivity at his port by around 20%. “It’ll merely delay the inevitable catch-up,” he added.
Dockworkers helped handle record cargo quantities last year and, according to Frank Ponce De Leon, an official with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents West Coast port workers, are just as vulnerable to Covid infections as other employees. For the week ending Jan. 8, Los Angeles County, which is home to many port employees, recorded 200,000 positive coronavirus infections, a new high.
The labor difficulties in Southern California arise as Covid-19 cases spread throughout the globe, halting output in US companies and closing manufacturing and jamming ports in China. Congestion and bottlenecks are rising at ports in the United States and Europe, according to a research released Tuesday by the Danish maritime consulting company Sea-Intelligence ApS.
The Southern California port complex is the primary maritime gateway for Asian imports into the United States, carrying over 40% of all containerized freight. Businesses scrambled to replace inventory, and Americans moved their pandemic-era spending from services to commodities, causing the ports to struggle last year to accommodate record import volumes, which increased by roughly 20% compared to pre-Covid levels in 2019.
From the Logistics Report:
Last year, the Biden administration made steps to reduce the backlog, including unsuccessful attempts to persuade Southern California facilities to switch to 24-hour operations.
Despite the spike in worker illnesses, Port of Long Beach Deputy Executive Director Noel Hacegaba noted in a statement that the port’s terminals remain operational and provide some extra hours. The Pacific Maritime Association was given issues concerning labor shortages by the Port of Los Angeles.
Terminals may be able to catch up on some of the work backlog if companies in Asia curtail operations over the Lunar New Year, which starts in a few weeks, according to Jim McKenna, the association’s chief executive. However, he warned that the majority of his members, which include the world’s top ocean carriers, anticipate the cargo boom to last at least another six months, if not until the end of 2022.
Paul Berger can be reached at [email protected]
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‘Southern California Ports Struggle to Trim Cargo Backlog,’ appeared in the print edition on January 12, 2022.
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The “container shipping delays 2021” is a story about the Southern California Ports struggling to trim their cargo backlog. The ports are seeing an influx of new ships coming into the region and they’re not able to keep up with the volume.
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