U.S. ports face record backlog ahead of holiday shopping

·2 min read

A growing number of shipments are stuck at sea because of supply chain issues, leading to growing concern that holiday shipments may not arrive in time. Container ships are crowding ports from New York to Los Angeles, where 250,000 containers are floating off the coast waiting to be unloaded. 

"There's no room to put this cargo. Our docks are full. People need to come and pick up their cargo," said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles. "Only half the truck drivers registered to do business here visit us at least once a week. We need more drivers on the job." 

But trucker George Anaya said the port needs to move faster. Anaya had an appointment at 7 p.m. to pick up a load but wasn't able to leave the terminal until 2 a.m. Before this year, he said he could pick up about 20 loads a week. It's now dropped to about six, he said. 

The Port of Los Angeles already extended its hours but isn't open around the clock like ports in other parts of the world. President Biden has said he'd like to see the ports operating 24 hours a day.

"You've got so many nodes of the supply chain that have to get on the same schedule. If we can get the warehouses to open around the clock, that would be important to us," Seroka said. 

The delays are affecting business owners like The Game Chest toy store owner Maryam al-Hammami, who said almost all of the toys she has in stock are already on store shelves. "I don't have anything to replace it with," she said. 

About 40% of al-Hammami's business depends on holiday shopping. "It's tough as a consumer because I'm also going to celebrate Christmas and it's tough as a business owner," she said. 

Larger companies, including Walmart, have chartered entire ships to deliver goods to less congested ports. The tremendous cost makes it out of reach for small businesses. 

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