March 2, 2024

The shipyards in Long Beach, Calif. are full of over thousands of shipments that have been waiting to get sent out for months.

Off the coast of both the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, people can see ships loaded with cargo waiting out in the water. They have been there for a long time, and they are not moving any time soon. The supply chain has broken down, but they are working as fast as they can to get it up and running again.

Joel Bigley, assistant business professor, said the issue is a lot bigger than ships piling up at the ports, and it starts in the production process at the factories.

“The problem with the factories is that they have become subject to government regulations surrounding the pandemic,” Bigley said. “Typically the factories have people who are standing very close to each other as they do work. Some factories have been told that they have to either keep all the people in the factory or they have to abide by certain regulations, which make it very difficult for the factory to function. So there’s fewer (supplies) actually flowing into the harbor. My point is that the situation is actually worse because there’s not as much coming in.”

Marc Weniger, professor of business, said the factories have been starting to catch up with the work they had fallen behind on while they were closed, and as a result too many ships are coming in.

“During COVID, we had a lot of manufacturers closed down, and as a result, the supply chain got disrupted because, even if you’re building a car, for example, you can’t go anywhere even if you have all the parts of the car beside the tires,” Weniger said. “You can’t sell the car without the tires, so that becomes a big issue. The problem is manufacturers came back online in waves, so certain parts are available and some parts were not available. For longest time, everyone just start placing orders they needed but, of course, the factories were closed. Now the factors have finally caught up, and so everyone’s catching up with their backlogs and putting them on the ships and the ships are coming here.”

In addition to the issues with factories causing all of the ships to arrive at once, there is the issue of not being able to unload things fast enough. There are many other factors that go into this. Bigley said there are strict regulations about what trucks can come in and move cargo, as well as regulations for truck drivers and for crane operators that are limiting the amount they can have, creating a bottleneck.

“The reason why the trucks can’t come in is because there are not enough cranes that are being used to move the containers,” Bigley said. “There’s not enough chassis to move the containers because they’re being occupied by other containers, and there are not enough truck drivers to move the containers out of the port. It’s a combination of issues, which also includes rail. There’s not enough rail capacity to move the containers out of the port.”

Because of all of these issues, shipping will take longer for certain things, and prices might go up if they use airplanes to ship items instead of ships. With the holidays approaching, this supply shortage could be an issue. What should customers do about this when it comes to their Christmas list?

“Order early,” Weniger said. “Order early and buy what you need early. Don’t wait for the last minute on things because things could take forever for you to get them. This could become a big issue right now if you’re just getting started.”

In addition to getting your Christmas shopping done early, Bigley offered a different suggestion.

“For Christmas, you could have an experience as a present,” Bigley said. “You could go do something. You could go out. You could do from that perspective. You could still have a nice present, but it would just be more experiential. Then you might also experience something digital because things that are digital don’t need to go on a boat. Go watch a movie or something like that.”

Jalyn Pereira, senior criminal justice major, also had a suggestion for an alternative way to avoid the shipping issue this holiday season.

“I think a great opportunity would be for small businesses,” Pereira said. “A lot of downtown areas have cute little small businesses, and then there’s even farmers’ markets that small businesses come out to. I think that’s a great place to not only support local businesses, but then you don’t have to worry about the rush.”

This holiday season might be hectic, last-minute shopping could have serious delays. Students should get shopping done early  and consider shopping locally.

Another alternative is to make something for friends and family. 

Productive pandemic hobbies people may have picked up could come in handy once again.

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