Long Beach: Broken supply chain and major changes

 


The problem facing California is actually one that is being experienced internationally: the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach together bring in 40% of all goods shipped to the US by sea. So now everyone from port directors to President Biden is interested in fixing the situation.


The history of the origin of the accumulation of lined containers in the water is complicated. Early in the pandemic, factories had to close or cut production and shipping companies cut their hours, assuming people would buy fewer things. The protective gear was shipped to locations around the world that don't export a lot of products, so some of those shipping containers weren't returned.


Then, the opposite of what was expected happened: like never before, people bought things, too many things! Warehouses struggled to hire enough workers to meet demand and began to keep products to support demand on reserve, leaving containers full of new products at ports, where they began to create traffic jams.


Although its acute phase was experienced during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the problems of the global supply chain that cause shortages of everything: from computer chips to hygiene supplies and food products persist and have led to obtain a massive support in the ports of southern California, a state in which legislators, logistics experts and authorities of all orders continue to seek alternatives to solve the problem.


Opening temporary storage locations, increasing the trucking and warehouse workforce, suspending regulations and creating a new inland port are some of the proposals, though experts predict delays will be resolved by complete until after 2023.


Meanwhile, stranded ships are causing pollution and businesses across the country are facing shortages at their storefronts. It is a multifaceted problem that, therefore, requires a multifaceted solution.


So what important and actionable changes can be made to repair a broken supply chain?


Find land that can temporarily store containers: California Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development Director Dee Dee Myers said one of the most frequently mentioned solutions is for the state to identify parcels of land, either inside or outside of port complexes, which can be used as additional temporary storage for containers. But leaving such valuable items scattered around Southern California could create new problems, like the logistics of how to retrieve them later and negotiating with communities who object to having a ton of big rigs coming and going.


Growing the truck driving workforce: Another factor contributing to the freight stagnation is the shortage of truck drivers. Truck drivers are independent contractors and are paid by the delivery rather than by the hour. When they're stuck waiting in ports for hours to get their container, it means they're working longer hours for the same take-home pay. Fewer drivers are willing to accept that deal. There is also a shortage of warehouse workers, as these jobs are becoming desperate and unattractive, driving staff away. Raising wages could attract new drivers and warehousemen interested in filling those jobs.


An inland port: Another longer-term solution is the creation of an inland port, sometimes called a dry port, to function as a distribution point for incoming goods. Inland ports are connected to seaports by road or rail. Having one of them would take some of the pressure off water ports like Long Beach.


California ports are just one point in a very long supply chain, stretching from manufacturers around the world to consumers in small towns in the Midwest and big cities on the East Coast.


The California state government has limited influence over the international players involved and the millions of consumers in the US who order products, and that is why there have been and are no quick fixes to this problem.


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