COVID-19 infecting hundreds of workers leads to cargo ship traffic jam

Coronavirus

LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — COVID-19 infections among dockworkers at ports in Southern California have lead to a massive slow down.

It is another ripple effect of the pandemic and you can imagine the ripple effect on the retail economy, and the traffic jam is not expected to ease up anytime soon. But port officials say the situation is in check.

Dozens of cargo ships are linked up, anchored and waiting to be offloaded outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The backup Thursday morning was at 50.

“It’s not random, it’s not chaos, it’s not out of control, my analogy is it’s a safe truck stop at the side of the road,” said Kip Louttit, Maritime Exchange of Southern California’s executive director.

The Maritime Exchange of Southern California monitors ship traffic.

“I feel bad for everybody who is hung up in the congestion with cargo which isn’t getting where it’s supposed to be. The longest ship out there got there on the 30th of January. So that ship’s been there 11 days so whatever’s onboard isn’t getting where it’s supposed to be,” Louttit said.

While perishable goods keep moving, non-perishables are standing by. The bottleneck is partly due to 700 dock workers who are off the job due to the coronavirus. Also, quarantined Americans ordered a lot of stuff online when the lockdowns set in last year. So there are way more ships that need to come in.

“People started ordering home gym equipment, home office equipment, refurbishing their houses, remodeling their houses, repainting their houses, and that is the stuff,” Louttit explained.

The delays and unpredictable shipping times of stuff has many companies juggling logistics.

Adam DeGroot says this backup is holding up his firm’s exports of produce to Asia and all this waiting will have a trickle down effect.

“There’s a lot of container and capacity that are tied up and disrupting the ability to get product out of the country,” DeGroot said. “The expectations game is everybody’s playing that too but that is what inflation looks like and this will work it’s way to the consumers pockets.”

According DeGroot, companies are looking to other ports and even routing things to the East Coast.

Before the pandemic, the LA port handled 10 to 20 ships a day. But operations remain slowed by COVID protocols, with fewer available dock workers, as a buying frenzy continues.

“The system was kind of optimized for that 10 to 20. Now they’re working on almost 30. So they’re working harder, even though it’s less efficient. But we had that extra bunch of ships come in with that extra stuff, and here we are,” DeGroot said.

The National Retail Federation told NewsNation they expect record levels well into the summer.

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