…and why you can’t just blame FedEx.
This post is for almost everyone, not just those in the transportation industry. This is because unless you refrain from all online shopping (in which case, I applaud you), then you’ve probably noticed a significant increase in shipping times and warnings of shipping delays on virtually every website.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably thought, “We’re a year into this pandemic, have we not figured out how to make this work yet?”
Let me explain why it’s not so simple.
Yes, it did start with COVID
You can definitely blame the outbreak of COVID on shipping delays, but the problem runs a lot deeper than that. It’s kind of like that gif of how traffic works—if one person stops in the middle of the interstate but then keeps going immediately, it’s still going to cause a backup that can stretch for miles.
At the beginning of 2020, things in the shipping industry were looking pretty normal. That is until COVID broke out in China, of course. Before the virus even swept across the US, manufacturing in China was shut down, so even as e-commerce picked up during the outbreak here, imports were limited. Gene Seroka, Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles, said that between February and May, imports into the port were essentially zero—so that all sounds about right, shipping is delayed because nothing is coming in.
The Tidal Wave
In the second half of the year, as we did start to “figure out how to make it work,” imports increased more than 50% from the first half of the year. According to Seroka, by the end of the year, the overall import volume for 2020 was technically only 1% more than that of 2019. Doesn’t sound like much, until you realize that means essentially an entire year’s worth of imports showed up in half the amount of time. Since then, we’ve only seen an increase in e-commerce.
Pre-COVID, Seroka says the Port of LA would have less than 10 cargo ships come in per day. Now, there are 15 or more ships arriving every day and no dock space available for them.
Under normal circumstances that would be overwhelming. Now add in the fact that California was and still is suffering outbreaks, resulting in deaths, sickness, isolations, and quarantines of dockworkers. It’s taking double and triple the amount of time to get those cargo ships unloaded, processed, and loaded onto trains and trucks.
Because of the delay in ships getting unloaded and the increase in ships, some ships are waiting up to a week to reach the dock. According to Vesselfinder.com, right now there are 30 container ships anchored outside of Southern California ports.
Will shipping return to normal soon?
Unfortunately, probably not. This issue is nuanced. I haven’t even touched on how this is all affected by driver shortages, container shortages, truck tonnage limits, and the Chinese Lunar New Year (in case you don’t believe me, that’s a huge factor in the global supply chain). It will take a lot of time for things to return to a balanced level, so in the meantime, be patient with your drivers, shippers, carriers, and mailperson, and start to think outside the box for transporting your goods.
And remember, if you need any help getting your goods where they need to go, reach out to one of our brokers here at LYNC.