The backlog at the nation’s busiest container port won’t ease until next summer, said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, on Thursday.
“Our next mile market [is] probably June or July of next year,” Seroka said during a virtual interview with the Washington Post.
Supply-chain bottlenecks at ports around the country driven by high consumer demand as the country has recovered from the coronavirus pandemic has helped push up prices of consumer goods and fueled a 3-year high in the U.S. inflation rate.
The number of container ships carrying imports from China to the U.S. are likely to pick up in the middle or end of February due to the Lunar New Year holiday in Asia. Then in the second quarter, American retailers are going to focus on inventory replenishment during what is traditionally the port’s slack season. The holiday season will likely start early again and last for the rest of the year, Seroka said.
Seroka said “some progress” is being made in small areas untangling the supply-chain, but noted that labor shortages continue to bedevil his port. The port itself is still short about 4,000 truckers, and warehouses in Southern California could use 8,000-9,000 more workers, he said.
“We’ve got to…find a way to create professions out of both of these sectors,” through higher compensation and more attractive benefits, he said.
“We still are fulfilling nearly only 50% of our available truck appointments every day,” he said.
“If we had more truckers we’d move more cargo. If we had more warehouse workers, we could extend hours,” he added.
One sign of improvement is that there are fewer ships awaiting berths. There are 60 container ships either coming from Asia or waiting for berths at the ports, down from 69 container ships in mid-October, Seroka said.
Just the threat of fines has reduced the number of aging containers that have been clogging the port by more than 50%, he added.
The Los Angeles port is operating 19 hours a day and there have been very few takers for the 3:00 a.m. – 8:00 a.m shift, Seroka said.
The yield on the 2-year U.S. Treasury note
has risen steadily since the summer on the prospect that the Federal Reserve will raise its benchmark interest rates next year to combat higher inflation partly caused by shortages due to supply chain problems.