After a screeching halt caused by closures at the beginning of the pandemic, transportation companies were able to make a quick recovery due to increasing consumer spending. The growing demand for the transportation of goods seemed to skyrocket and further increased as the holidays approached.
Despite many Americans being affected by the pandemic, consumer habits helped surviving carriers stay afloat with increased shipments. However, this also created a surge in transportation at a time when many of those jobs were lost and companies went out of business. In the new year, we are seeing a continued situation that is overwhelming our busiest ports, specifically the Port of Los Angeles.
The Main Issue at Hand
Over the last 6 months, cargo volume increased 50% which was unprecedented. Despite having 1.8 billion square feet of warehouse space in Southern California, there is significant pressure on the operators in facilities due to the restrictions of safety protocols. Unfortunately, that means delays, in terms of shipments and proper training for employees.
Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said, “We’re at full employment here at the Port of Los Angeles, every longshore worker, both registered and casual, or our apprenticeships are out there on the job.” He also stated, “Because of COVID, it just takes more time to get people trained and out on the job.”
Government Aid Rolls Out
Last month, the House of Representatives finished their negotiations on the National Defense Authorization Act, and within this act, the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Program was created. The program is intended to allocate funding to ports after natural disasters and emergencies, which includes COVID-19. Congress’ decision to support the need for strong and resilient ports and supply chains will help immensely.
Developments for the Future
For now, Seroka noted that the port is working on adding digital operations to improve shipping and logistics. A large amount of activity is usually seen as positive, and despite the hardships and an overwhelmed port, this is a good problem to have. However, the port is under strain.
Seroka made this interesting observation about exported shipments, “The most startling statistic is that we’re shipping back two times the amount of empty boxes than we are American exports across our docks.” The Port of Los Angeles will likely continue to be busy over the next several months, but progress and relief are on the way.
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