Date: Thursday, September 9, 2021
Supply chain issues are affecting retailers nationwide.
Here in the Pacific Northwest - a gateway for trade - there is no better place to see the intense impact than at our ports.
In the Pacific Northwest we're used to seeing shipping containers stacked at the ports but nothing like this.
“We are seeing the whole supply chain start to fail,” said John Wolfe, CEO of the Northwest Seaport Alliance.
And it's not just stacks of containers loaded with product. Everything from electronics and clothing to furniture and appliances.
It's the cargo ships waiting to unload.
“This morning we had 15 vessels waiting at anchor or drifting outside of our port,” Wolfe said.
The Northwest Seaport Alliance was a partnership created between the Tacoma and Seattle port-to work together.
Wolfe said up to 4,000 containers are on those vessels waiting to dock.
“Essentially these terminals become places of storage of inbound containers," Wolfe said.
Wolfe said at the center of it all, is off the charts consumer spending. Reinforced by the pandemic and retailers ramping up imports for the holidays.
“We have seen unprecedent volumes of imported cargo moving thru the trans-pacific trade moving from Asia to the U.S," Wolfe said.
It’s created a massive traffic jam and forced the ports to adapt as fast they can..
“It is a total failure of the fundamentals of the supply chain and it's brought all of us all of supply chain to its knees right now," Wolfe said.
“Itt’s always trucks, zooming around crazy in every direction,” said trucker Jesse Dinus waiting to unload a truck full of hey from Eastern Washington.
The reasons for the supply chain hiccups are layered. We've reported on the truck driver shortage nationwide.
“it’s tough for sure,” Dinus said.
Dinus said he sees the shortage among his competitors, one that hit before the pandemic. He said his company’s benefits has helped them get and keep drivers.
High volumes mean more vessels arriving at full capacity. Longer unload time, creating the backups. And rail lines stretched thin are experiencing delays too.
And importer warehouses full and containers sit.
“Right now because of supply chain challenges the consumer market struggling to find that kind of service level and retails really struggling to get their inventory level to a healthy level,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe is confident by the end of the year operations will improve for trade, that goes for both imports and exports. He says everyone in the supply chain is continuing to adapt and thinks the issues could be more manageable by early next year.