Shipping backlog causes supply chain chaos

(NBC) – There’s a growing crisis at major container ports on both coasts causing shipping delays and supply shortages for businesses large and small.

Off the coast of Los Angeles, it’s a truly stunning sight—nearly 60 container ships anchored all the way to the horizon with precious goods and supplies sitting idle for days.

And on the East Coast, data shows nearly 20 waiting to get into New York City.

Craig Fuller is the CEO of FreightWaves. He explained, “When the world’s manufacturers came back online, there was a surge in products that were ordered and just a finite amount of capacity of ships, of trucks, of warehouses. The infrastructure that exists can’t handle the volume.”

The cargo bottleneck is just the latest hiccup in an already struggling supply chain with labor shortages in trucking and warehouses causing unprecedented delays.

Big retailers like Costco and Home Depot have started contracting their own ships to bring goods to U.S. shores with Costco recently announcing it will be putting limits on key items for consumers like toilet paper, bottled water, and cleaning supplies.

Also at risk for many retailers are popular holiday gift items like TVs, toys, and sneakers.

Small business owners are feeling the pinch too. Like Steve Siegel, whose furniture inventory is consistently stuck at sea. He said, “Once the ship gets unloaded it has to go to the distributor. And once it gets there, do they have anybody to unload the truck? The container? Probably not.”

Alex Willen sells all-natural dog treat mix. Right now, everything from his silicone treat molds to the jars for his “popsicle” mix are getting stuck in transit. He said, “Maybe four or five months ago would have taken 45 days to get here. Now, you know, could be 60, could be as much as 90.”

With no end to the delays in sight, Alex is ordering all of his holiday inventory as early as possible. “Certainly have patience with small businesses,” he said. “Things are challenging, everything is slowed down and we’re all, we’re all doing the best we can.”

Experts say consumers should keep a healthy stock of essentials at home and make a plan to order holiday gifts as soon as possible.

Fuller said, “If you have something in mind this holiday season for a family member, a child, go ahead and secure that now, do not wait, chances are that it won’t be available in the store after Black Friday.”

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