On 28 August, a record 44 ships were anchored off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Bloomberg reported, waiting for a slot in a terminal to load goods bound for China or unload merchandise coming from there.
Ships’ average wait time had grown to 7.6 days on that date, compared to 6.2 days just two weeks earlier, according to data from the Port of Los Angeles.
Loaded ships are unable to set sail for China until the ocean freight backlog there has cleared after the country reopened a terminal at the port of Ningbo after shutting it down for two weeks after one worker tested positive for the COVID virus. (See “China Closes Key Port Terminal: Trouble Ahead,” 24 Aug 2021.)
Ships laden with goods to unload have to wait as railroads and trucking companies deal with their own shortages of everything from workers to spare parts.
The snarls come at a time when U.S. retailers usually begin to stock up for the December holidays’ buying season and as China prepares for its seven-day Golden Week holiday early next month.
China also has applied its “zero tolerance” anti-virus policy beyond its own docks.
“One of our dedicated charters was recently denied entry into China, because a crew member tested positive for COVID, forcing the vessel to return to Indonesia to change the entire crew before continuing,” Michael Witynski, CEO of the Dollar Tree store chain, said in a late August call with reporters, including Bloomberg. 
“Overall, the voyage was delayed by two months,” he said.
The clogs have rippled across the world’s oceans; in late August, at least a dozen cargo ships were biding time outside the port of Savannah on Georgia’s coast, according to Bloomberg.
TREND FORECAST: The long delays will add to the price consumers and factories pay for everything from car parts to Christmas toys, pushing prices higher and hardening inflation amid ongoing shortages.
Combined with the Delta virus scourge, the multiple, ongoing shipping and supply chain foul-ups will harm the winter holiday sales season for retailers, especially those with walk-in stores, eliminate wholesale and retail jobs, and continue to slow the economic recovery well into next year.
Also, as we noted in our article cited above, in nations lacking strong citizens’ movements opposing lockdowns and other harsh mandates, politicians are now likely to impose a new round of restrictions that harm workers, individuals, and businesses.
Again, we call on political leaders to learn the lessons of 2020’s COVID War: isolate the vulnerable, allow others to move and work freely under reasonable, evidence-based precautions, and leave schools and businesses open so economies and society itself can survive.

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