Closed California ports impact on the supply chain

by | Jan 8, 2015 | 3PLs, Suppliers

Christmas is over, but Santa didn’t bring an end to the strike between shippers and union dockworkers at several West Coast ports, despite calls from President Barack Obama and Los Angeles’ mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa to find one. (Calls to the union and management, that is, not calls to Santa.)

The strike began in November, as some 20,000 dockworkers have either walked off the job or held work slowdowns to protest outsourcing of clerical jobs, says the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU). Clerical workers walked out on November 27, and the longshoremen, which are represented by the same union, have refused to cross the picket lines.

The strike has affected seven of eight terminals at the Port of Los Angeles and three of six terminals at Port of Long Beach. The strike is having a ripple effect in the supply chain.

The National Retail Federation has asked President Obama to intervene, saying a 10-day West Coast lockout in 2002 cost the economy $1 billion per day, and supply chains took six months to recover.

In the meantime, many ships are being re-routed to other ports, including Mexico, where the goods are being offloaded and trucked into the United States. Other ships are still waiting to be offloaded, cargo sitting in containers, off the shores of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

We can’t imagine the supply chain problems this strike has caused suppliers and retailers. Millions of consumers have been, or will be, affected.

While order tracking capabilities can show whether shipments are in transit from the overseas manufacturer or on the way to the warehouse, they don’t tell you their spot in line at the four working terminals in the Los Angeles/Long Beach area. The only thing retailers and suppliers can do is watch the news for updates, and keep in touch with their logistics providers to see if their ships are heading for other ports, or if they’re still waiting in line.

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SPS Commerce Blog Team

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