What is happening at U.S. ports?

What should make the industry happy about the rise in e-commerce, derived from shopping from home during confinement to prevent COVID-19 infections, has actually been a long and difficult season for the field of logistics, especially for the supply chain that is still struggling to get back on its feet.

The middle of 2020 marked the beginning of unprecedented and impressive container traffic jams in the main ports of the United States, which worsened over the months to break their own negative records. From a distance, with more clarity and a little less desperation, it is possible to look back to analyze the supply chain vulnerabilities that were exposed during the contingency, and that almost paralyzed international trade.

Stoppages in the movement of shipments, in addition to raising costs for the final consumer, delayed projects and generated shortages of products as diverse as customer demand; all those annoying episodes of daily life caused by the fragmentation of the supply chain.

As we said before, the rhythm of life that we know, activities that seem very simple such as buying groceries, clothes, gadgets, cosmetics and personal hygiene products, depend on the operability of ports, the efficiency of truck fleets and the railways, coordinated with each other.

Terminals and ships are, in addition to means of transport, improvised warehouses, so the accumulation of cargo inside them restricts speed and thus also reduces the capacity of the port to do things as quickly as possible. For this reason, faced with the jam of hundreds of containers, the capacity of the port is put to the test, which, lacking the speed it requires, cannot be efficient.

Thus, the lack of storage space is the reason that containers accumulate in ports, and at the same time, that they cannot have an accelerated transit. In other words, container stacking is caused by a shortage of storage capacity, and particularly at the Port of Long Beach, the shortage manifests itself at the terminals and on the water.

More than a year into the most difficult days of this crisis, supply chain constraints are still exacerbated by labor shortages that have resulted in 80,000 truckers nationwide failing to move freight. , coupled with worker shortages at virtually every level of the supply chain.

Although some transportation workers were laid off during the pandemic, others are retiring or leaving the industry altogether; all of this contributes to the demand becoming too great, compared to the available workforce.

To deal with this situation, two of the most important ports in the United States, Long Beach and Los Angeles, extended their hours of operation to 24 hours a day, throughout the week.

Experts estimate that the headaches for those who are part of the logistics industry and deal daily with the ravages of this problem will end in 2023. The implementation of technological and artificial intelligence tools will be essential to accelerate recovery. We refer to predictive analytics strategies, appointment scheduling software and real-time transactions.

By allowing shippers advanced visibility into where they need to be and when, predictive analytics drives a new set of efficiencies. It gives terminal operators the visibility they need to plan their workforce and equipment days in advance, saving time in the process and thereby contributing to greater efficiency.

Thus, the technology that is a tool, in a case like this, becomes a true solution when you have the necessary openness and intelligence to integrate it into operations.

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