Shortage of shipping containers leading to higher cost for goods

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The APM Container terminal at the Port of Mobile is a busy place these days. Workers are trying to keep up with the pent-up demand for products coming into and leaving the country.

“It’s just a sheer volume coming in from East Asia–coming into the United States,” said Port Director John Driscoll.

But because of the pandemic, a lot of products are not getting shipped quickly. That’s because when things shut down last year due to the pandemic, the production of shipping containers was also cut. That led to a drastic increase in shipping costs now as the supply chain tries to catch up with demand—and a drastic increase in the cost of the containers.

“The price of bringing a container from China to the west coast has gone up three-fold,” said Driscoll.


The bottom line is because shippers are having to pay more to use these containers–consumers are having to pay more for the goods being shipped in them.

And it’s not just the shortage of shipping containers. Ports on the east and west coasts are slammed as suppliers try to keep up with the demand for products. Images from ‘marinetraffic.com,’ filtered to show only cargo vessels, show just how busy those ports are. Last month, as many as 60 ships were anchored off the coast of Southern California waiting to get into the Port of Los Angeles, which is working with limited manpower.

Kip Luttit with the Maritime Exchange of Southern California said, “Because some fraction of the workers are out of work because they have covid–and a bigger fraction is out of work because of contact tracing—and that’s from the terminals to the trucks, to the trains, to the warehouses.”

With these factors in play, the entire supply chain is stressed. If there is a silver lining on the Gulf Coast, John Driscoll with the Port of Mobile says the port is seeing some of the overflow from those east and west ports–and benefitting from it.

“Business that has been diverted due to the problems they’re having either on the west coast or the east coast that’s going really to the midwest of the United States,” said Driscoll.

The downside? Driscoll says he doesn’t see things for the supply chain settling down anytime soon, because the peak season for shipping doesn’t even begin until August for back to school and the holidays.

“We haven’t even hit the peak season yet, and we’ve been having these problems,” he said.

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