A backlog of freighters waiting to enter Los Angeles and Long Beach ports is pushing up the cost of goods and services during the pandemic. A record 70 freighters – carrying everything from furniture and electronics to toys – face delays at ports, which handle 40% of the country’s imports.
The backlog is likely to inject more chaos into the holiday shopping season.
Marine traffic has increased by 50% from pre-pandemic levels, Los Angeles Port Manager Gene Seroka said. “The buying force of the American consumer is so strong and so epic that we cannot absorb all of this cargo into the national supply chain,” Seroka said. “That means you aren’t going to find the product you want as quickly as usual. If you are shopping for the holidays, start now.”
A shortage of trucks and drivers to transport goods from ports adds to concerns that some store shelves may be empty during the holiday shopping season.
“There are an average of about 16 full load shipments available for each truck available to haul product out of there,” said Bob Biesterfield, CEO of shipping logistics company CH Robinson.
He said major retailers pay for planes to carry cargo from overseas and some charter entire container ships.
“It’s something that, frankly, we’ve never seen before,” Biesterfield said. “We expect there will be more bare shelves for the holiday season this year than people are used to.”
Tony Jabuka, owner of The Bike Palace in San Pedro, is still awaiting the 100 new bikes he ordered last year after buyers cleared his inventory.
“I imagine some of them are on the ships right here in San Pedro,” he said. “It’s frustrating because you can look around the harbor and see all the containers that are stacked five or six high.”