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Omicron Exacerbates Port Backlog

By NAM News Room

The West Coast’s busiest ports are struggling to navigate new and ongoing bottlenecks, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

The situation: The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are trying to clear more than 100 container ships that are idling at anchor in the area. The ports are facing another staffing shortage at the moment, with about 800 dockworkers unavailable as of Monday for COVID-19-related reasons—including some who tested positive for the virus, others who were feeling ill and some who were waiting for test results.

The big picture: The acute challenge comes on top of a more longstanding issue, as the increase in traffic to the area has created long lines of cargo ships seeking to offload their goods at the port.

  • “Dozens of vessels have waited weeks or months to unload cargo at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as a crush of imports has overwhelmed logistics operations that deliver goods to U.S. markets. The backlog rose to 100 ships in late November and reached a record 106 vessels on New Year’s Day. Before the pandemic, it was unusual for more than one ship to wait for a berth.”

Why it matters: The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach represent the main gateway for goods coming to the United States from Asia and departing the U.S. for transpacific shipment. During the pandemic, a number of factors have stressed the supply chain and forced all ports to pick up an even larger amount of goods; last year, L.A.–Long Beach specifically contended with record import volumes that were about 20% above pre-COVID-19 levels.

What we’re saying: “The dramatic impact of pandemic-related slowdowns on our national supply chain continue to plague industrial shipping,” said NAM Director of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Ben Siegrist. “Manufacturers know this firsthand in terms of overall goods movement costs and volatile delivery and production schedules. While we’ve seen some positive and responsive steps taken at the federal level, the NAM established our Ports and Ocean Shipping Task Force specifically to engage with policymakers and industry leaders seeking short- and long-term solutions. Our proactive advocacy will continue as essential shipping operators  prepare for the months to come and react to developments related to workforce health and safety.”

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