The congestion of cargo ships stranded for several days off the U.S. coast, mainly in the port of Los Angeles (LA), has been in the news in recent weeks, raising some speculation about what caused it, as well as concerns about possible supply shortages. 

According to the Daily Mail, the dozens of ships anchored off the west coast could be waiting up to four weeks before being able to dock.

A shortage of port staff would have caused the backlog due to the COVID 19 pandemic crisis. The media outlet also mentions that increased demand for consumer goods has also played a role.

Traffic jams at ports on the California and Atlantic coasts reportedly reached crisis levels in the last 18 months. In Chicago, it reached a bottleneck of approximately 25 miles.

According to the Daily, the crisis could lead to shortages in several major consumer items, such as clothing, electronics, toys, and furniture, which could lead to price hikes as many retailers are forced to cope with shortages and wholesale cost increases.

Bottlenecks at some ports are even beginning to raise concerns that there could be shortages in the run-up to Christmas.

According to Marine Exchange of Southern California data, as of Sept. 30, there were 140 total vessels in the LA port, including 83 in anchorage or drift areas and 57 at berths. 

Today’s reports indicated 146 total vessels in LA Harbor, 84 in anchorage or drift areas, and 62 at berths.

But not all ports are experiencing these bottlenecks. While it had been circulating strongly on the interwebs that it was one of the hardest hit, New York Harbor is working under normal conditions. 

This was confirmed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in a statement published by the Daily Mail, in which it said operations there were “robust.” 

“There are no labor shortages or significant shipping backlogs,” it said.

But the shipping chaos carries over to ground transportation, as the rail and trucking industries, which continue in the chain of the U.S. supply system, have reached unprecedented levels of congestion.

Steven Trombley, general manager of the Los Angeles rail facility, is being overwhelmed and must redouble efforts to keep up with the growing influx of goods with fewer workers.

At the facility, containers destined to travel by rail often sit on the docks for weeks, in contrast to the days before the pandemic, the media outlet said. 

A coalition of unions representing shipping workers worldwide warned in an open letter Wednesday that pandemic restrictions have thrown global shipping into chaos.

“We are witnessing unprecedented disruptions and global delays and shortages on essential goods including electronics, food, fuel and medical supplies,” they said.

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