Brutal congestion at the nation’s busiest ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach is throwing a kink into an economy that’s finally kicking into high gear.
The months-long bottleneck is hurting retailers and other businesses that aren’t getting their shipments on time as massive ships from Asia anchor off the Los Angeles coastline waiting for the docks to clear.
“It’s been the bane of my existence,” said Lisa Foster, whose Venice business sells reusable shopping bags imported from China. “And it’s only getting worse and worse and worse.”
That’s in stark contrast to a national economy that’s on pace to add the most new jobs since 1999. On Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average crossed the 18,000 threshold for the first time, after a government report showed the economy last quarter grew at the fastest pace in more than a decade.
Growth, however, would have been stronger if the ports — which handle roughly 40% of U.S. imports — were operating smoothly, said international trade economist Jock O’Connell. The negative drag probably will worsen in the fourth quarter, when the most brutal congestion surfaced, he said.
“This does act as a drag on the economy,” O’Connell said. “You want the ports, the entire supply chain to operate at maximum efficiency. And it’s not.”
L.A. and Long Beach are trying to speed up the flow of cargo. The ports are taking a variety of steps to ease the logistical nightmare they blame on the increased use of massive container ships, a surge in cargo as the economy improves and a shortage of the trailers that truckers use to haul goods from the ports. In February, a shared trailer system will roll out, designed to make the equipment more available for truckers.
And this week, the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners voted to ask the federal government for permission to work with its competitor in L.A. in a bid to clear the docks.
“These are systemic problems that can only be solved by bringing all the parties together,” Port of Long Beach Chief Executive Jon Slangerup said in a statement.
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