Everyone knows that COVID has taken its toll on the economy, and frankly, most of us are probably sick of hearing about it! 2021 is a new start and we are all doing everything we can to keep moving forward.
But while many things are genuinely improving, COVID continues to have lasting effects on several industries. Shipping is no exception.
Recent news from the LA Long Beach ocean shipping ports has given shippers reason for concern as the virus potentially threatens a terminal shutdown if things don’t improve. Here’s why:
LA Ocean Ports: Could There be a COVID Shutdown?
Things haven’t been all bad for the U.S. economy since COVID. While the first few months looked rather grim for the shipping industry as a whole, the back half of 2020 saw a massive surge in imports (most likely in pursuit of offsetting the results of the first half of the year.)
In March, there was roughly a 20% decrease in overall U.S. imports, and although that number may not sound huge, it had massive implications on the U.S. economy. However, in the back half of 2020, there was an estimated 50% increase in imports. Not only is that a shock to terminal port workers – it was also a 10% increase in volume beyond what would’ve been expected throughout the year without any COVID crisis in the mix.
But as terminal workers were pushing to work overtime and keep shipments moving, hundreds of workers have been reported to have contracted COVID and were temporarily put out of work. For a workforce that was already drowning with import handling, the effect of that viral spread is detrimental.
At one point towards the end of January, an estimated 45 ocean vessels were docked waiting to be unloaded. For a port that’s already congested under normal circumstances, the increased shipment volume combined with the massive decrease in workforce has put undue pressure on port workers, potentially threatening a terminal shutdown.
It’s currently estimated that 1,800 workers are out on sick leave with COVID-19, and the virus continues to spread among staff. At this point in time, workers are awaiting an influx of vaccinations to ensure everyone can return to work safely.
Executives of the Long Beach and LA ports have been interviewed, and none of them are currently expecting any shutdowns in the near future, but if things get out of control, the threat is certainly a possibility. In interest of keeping cargo moving quickly and efficiently, port workers and management are doing everything they can to reduce the spread of the virus so as to keep workers safe and productive, but shippers should expect major delays on ocean cargo coming through the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.