Shipping is broken. Here’s how to fix it.
As of Friday morning, approximately 70 ships filled with cargo were anchored outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which are the points of entry for more than 40 percent of US imports. This backlog is a clear reminder that there aren’t enough workers or facilities to take in all the products that are being shipped to the United States right now. But even as supply chain problems continue to pile up, experts say progress is possible.
The pandemic has exposed the fragility of the US logistics industry. Manufacturing bottlenecks and shipping delays have resulted in cargo piling up not only in port terminals but also in rail yards and warehouses. Critical equipment, like shipping containers and truck chassis, is unavailable, causing distribution centers to develop deep backlogs. Meanwhile, a surge in demand has strained the system even further.
The consequences of the logistics crunch are far-reaching. Shipping problems have made it harder to import medical supplies and export crops. Supply chain workers, including truck drivers and warehouse workers, are taking on grueling extra hours. Extra activity at the ports has driven up emissions and worsened the air quality for the communities that live in the surrounding areas. At the same time, small businesses are worried that, without supplies, they’ll lose critical holiday season sales to larger retailers like Home Depot and Walmart, which have chartered private cargo ships. There’s also growing concern that logistics issues are driving up prices on all sorts of everyday products.