Since November of 2020, we have been reading about congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the effect that the bottleneck is having on cargo owners and ultimately retail prices. High import levels are driving the congestion and an easing of volumes is not in sight.
Unfortunately this congestion has spread from Southern California up the coast and onto the East Coast and to inland hubs such as Chicago and Memphis . The entire US container shipping network has been affected just as the economy continues to heat up and retailers are anticipating back-to-school shopping, Halloween, and the winter holiday season. Fortunately, this week the San Pedro ports are reporting a decrease in their backlog and are projecting that by the end of June the congestion will be eased.
There is a long blame list for the port delays in Southern California starting with Covid-19 reduced work crew productivity; ships piling up in San Pedro Bay; overflowing container yards; shortages of boxes and chassis, and a now a shortage of railcars. The railways are blaming the railcar shortage on the high volume of cargo straining the system stemming from the bad weather in February. And, it was reported last week that the terminal operators at PoLA and PoLB are now concerned that increasing rail container dwell times at their facilities will severely compromise their ability to handle import volumes during the upcoming peak season.
The Federal Government is Concerned
The Surface Transportation Board also expressed concern several weeks about the Class 1 railroads ability to meet demands for service as the economy recovers from the pandemic. In a letter sent to each Class 1, Chairman Martin Oberman wrote, “I am requesting an updated and detailed description of your preparedness to meet anticipated future demand, including (1) the availability of train crew, yard, and maintenance employees (active, re