We’ve spent a lot of this month looking at the importance of location in fulfillment.
From alternative ways to leverage location in a digital world to the physical reality of bringing ever-larger vessels through the Panama Canal, it’s clear that where we are and the routes we choose to move cargo through have a direct impact on product availability and customer satisfaction.
Well, that was summer. Sure, we might get a few more weeks of temporary temperature bumps, but the free and easy days of August vacations are now in the rearview and the race into peak season is upon us.
West Coast importers are feeling the burn of a labor dispute dating back to the middle of last year.
Unfortunately, the culprit depends on your perspective and no-one’s quite sure just how much it’s hurting. What everyone agrees is that the sooner the dispute is over, the sooner the supply chain can get back to business as usual.
Workers at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach are out of contract, demanding new terms and accusing their management counterparts of organizing insufficient labor, while they themselves are accused of deliberately slowing down operations to influence a decision in their favor.
The dispute spilled out of the office and on to the docks over the holidays, disrupting daily operations and delaying stock movements that some retailers were relying on for their sales during this crucial period. Even so, not everyone is aware of the congestion and FedEx CEO Frederick Smith believes it has been underestimated, telling the LA Times:
“The slowdown in the West Coast ports has been a much bigger deal than people think. I suspect that you’ll see a lot of purchases of gift cards in lieu of merchandise.”
Regardless of who’s to blame, or the exact economic impact of the delays, no-one who relies on cargo coming in through Pacific shipping routes is happy. Congestion at North America’s busiest port – approximately 40% of all U.S. imports come in via Los Angeles – has a knock-on effect up and down the coast, delaying shipments and threatening the livelihoods of many as stock fails to arrive and customer orders aren’t filled.
So aside from waiting out the negotiations or shutting up shop, what options are open to businesses moving cargo into the country?
While it sounds like more of a personal lifestyle choice, a bi-coastal import solution is firmly rooted in logistics and is one of the more flexible ways to keep your business moving, if and when adverse weather, strikes or some other major issue gums up the works on one of the coasts.
We operate storage and distribution facilities out of both the Tri-state area (based in New Jersey) and Los Angeles for just that reason. If you come to Capacity with a question about the best way to bring cargo into the country, we can factor in the latest conditions and offer the most efficient route.
If it seems like the opposite coast would just take too much time, consider the visual presented in this article, with lines of container ships (now into double figures at times) struggling to even berth in Los Angeles. That’s thousands of containers just sitting in line, with limited resources – and perhaps dwindling desire – to unload them. Add to that the fact that night shifts were recently withdrawn and you have delay stretching from days and potentially into weeks, just to unload a vessel (which usually takes hours) and move products out of the port.
Even if everything is resolved soon, the port’s past (and the nature of this business called logistics that we love) suggests that it won’t be the last time this happens. Whether your products come in via the east or west, having the option to use either coast as a back up is an attractive alternative that might make all the difference when it comes to satisfying your customers.
We’ll keep you up to date on all the latest news and views from the port of Los Angeles, as well as other major issues emanating around our industry.
Although many consider Memorial Day to be the unofficial start of summer, pedants will argue that it officially remains spring until June 21st. Either way, most of us go by whether or not the sun is shining!
For the shipping industry, another date is the key to seasonality, and this year it’s Sunday June 15th.