White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that there is “serious progress” being made in dealing with supply chain bottlenecks at two major ports in California as they moved to 24/7 operations.
“Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said that we have already cut in half the amount of cargo that is sitting on the docks for 13 days or longer,” Psaki told reporters. “That is serious progress, and this commitment from the railroad is just the latest step toward a 24/7 supply chain, and the result of important partnerships between business, labor, and the port leadership.”
Psaki also said that Union Pacific Railroad, the second-largest railroad operator in the United States, would serve the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach with 24/7 service.
“We’re going to continue to evaluate steps that need to be taken in order to move toward a 24/7 global supply chain,” Psaki said, saying the White House will continue to push to “expedite the moving of goods” across the United States.
Data from the Marine Exchange, however, shows that about 157 ships were waiting off the two ports in Southern California as of Monday. It shows that 100 ships were at anchor and 57 were at berths.
Ship report 10/18: 157 total ships inport LA/LB includes 100 at anchor or holding areas & 57 at berths. Of the 157, 97 are container ships including 70 at anchor or in holding areas & 27 at berth. 43 vessels in holding areas; 33 container ships, 3 tankers, 5 bulk, 2 general cargo pic.twitter.com/12tmrFy5yU
— Marine Exchange (@MXSOCAL) October 18, 2021
Psaki again repeated a claim from other Biden administration officials that there has been “so much traffic in a lot of these ports is because there are more goods that are being ordered by people across the country,” asserting the phenomenon is, in part, due to the economy.
Psaki also did not touch on reports of surges of panic-buying and panic-ordering by both retailers and customers, which might be driving up demand for goods.
“Suddenly retailers and manufacturers are overordering because of these supply chain issues, and that’s just leading to essentially an even worse scenario,” Jonathan Savoir, CEO of supply chain technology firm Quincus, told CNBC this week.
In recent weeks, some retailers and analysts have issued warnings to Americans that they might not be able to purchase their Christmas goods or that their items won’t arrive on time.
However, alleviating pressure on the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles is just one facet of the U.S. supply chain. Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, told CNN on Tuesday that the trucking industry is short about 80,000 drivers.
Describing the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach moving to 24/7 operations as “an improvement,” Spear warned that “it doesn’t matter if it’s a port in LA or Long Beach, or the last mile of delivery from a train to a warehouse in Wichita. You’re going to have to have a driver and a truck move that freight.”
“I think that clearly is the most impactful thing that could be done right now to alleviate this problem. So next year, [we] are not going to be having this conversation because it will alleviate itself because we’re investing,” he said.