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Late holiday packages? Better luck next year.

  • A record level of imports is causing continued shipping delays in the US.
  • The delays will last well beyond the holidays, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Berger.
  • Experts say port congestion will stick around until at least fall 2022.

The US’ supply chain woes aren’t going away any time soon. 

Shipping ports are already congested ahead of a busy holiday season thanks to a record-level of imports, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Berger. In the United States, ports were expected to handle 2.37 million imported containers in August, per the Global Port Tracker report produced by Hackett Associates for the National Retail Federation,the highest monthly volume since the NRF began keeping data in 2002. 

The NRF is also projecting that 25.9 million containers will enter the U.S. in 2021, which would break 2020’s record-setting 22 million boxes.

The import influx means that hundreds of thousands of containers are stuck stacked on ships or in terminals waiting to be moved inland, according to the Journal. When the containers finally do move, they’re subject to additional congestion at warehouses, distribution centers, and freight rail yards, many of which are at full capacity. 

Experts say these delays could continue well into next year.

Mario Cardero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, California, told the Journal that he doesn’t “see substantial mitigation with regard to the congestion that the major container ports are experiencing.”

Container volume usually slows down in conjunction with the February Lunar New Year, when many Chinese factories shut down, Cardero said. In 2022, though, it likely won’t be enough of a break for backed-up US ports before another busy spring and summer season, he said.

“Many people believe it’s going to continue through the summer of 2022,” he said.

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Americans have shifted their spending away from services like restaurants and vacations towards consumer goods like home improvement and electronics. These changes created supply shortages in the early days of the pandemic and are now contributing to further delays: port leaders told the Journal they’re also now stocking up on extra inventory just in case. 

Logjams might continue until the end of the pandemic, according to Sam Ruda, who is the port director at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“That’s really what will inform the duration of what we are seeing on the ground today,” he told the Journal. 

 

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