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Global supply chains are in a state of absolute chaos. Every time things seem to be getting back on track, a new disruption emerges and pushes the entire system to the brink of a collapse. Even the mainstream media is extremely alarmed about the worsening of this crisis. Widespread shortages are being reported all across the country, but the situation may escalate to a whole new level over the coming weeks as millions of supply chain workers are threatening to quit their jobs.
Over the past 18 months, seafarers, truck drivers, and airline workers have dealt with strict travel restrictions, testing requirements, and a crew change crisis that left nearly a million workers stuck at sea for almost a year. After so many challenges, millions of them are reaching their breaking point and planning to quit the workforce, posing yet another risk to congested ports, container vessels, and trucking companies. Last week, the International Chamber of Shipping sent a letter to heads of state attending the United Nations General Assembly warning of a “global transport system collapse” if governments do not lift movement restrictions to transport workers and give them priority to get vaccines so that they can travel freely around the world.
“Global supply chains are beginning to buckle as two years’ worth of strain on transport workers take their toll,” the groups wrote. The letter was signed by several groups, including the International Air Transport Association, the International Road Transport Union, and the International Transport Workers’ Federation. Together they represent 65 million transport workers globally. “All transport sectors are also seeing a shortage of workers, and expect more to leave as a result of the poor treatment millions have faced during the sanitary outbreak, putting the supply chain under greater threat,” it added.
At this moment, the situation is looking particularly dire at our ports. Dozens of cargo ships are arriving every day and having to wait for days to finally get unloaded. In the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, at least 75 cargo ships are carrying an estimated 500,000 containers and no one seems to know what to do and how to handle the unprecedented backlog given that there are not enough dockworkers to empty all of those containers. Never in history, US ports faced such acute congestion. To make things worse, the container backlog on the other side of the world is even bigger. In China, at least 154 container ships full of import cargo are stuck offshore waiting to unload and refill containers with export goods in Shanghai and Ningbo ports, according to eeSea, a company that analyzes carrier schedules. All across the country, a total of 242 container ships are waiting for berths.
Congestion in Chinese ports means that the flow of exports to U.S. importers is significantly constrained. This comes as retailers struggle to restock their inventories before the busy holiday shopping season. Waiting times are more than doubling and shipping delays have become the norm. As this crisis aggravates, we’re now being told that this holiday season is going to be a turbulent one. “Retailers are sounding the alarm on the upcoming holiday shopping season due to serious supply chain issues that are slowing shipments of manufactured goods around the world,” CBS reported., adding that: “chaos theory in its simplest form says if a butterfly flaps its wings in China, it means rain in Central Park. Well, that applies not just to weather, but supply chains as well, and in the Bay Area, it will impact everything from computer parts for your car to the gifts and toys on your holiday shopping list”.
So if you really want to get something for the coming season, you should probably place your order right now, because there’s a huge chance that it will not be available later. According to the Chamber of Commerce, the delivery delays are only going to get worse from now on. At the grocery store, soaring food prices have been absolutely devastating for working-poor families who allocate a high percentage of their incomes to basic and essential items. While many Americans are still relying on the false idea that widespread shortages will never become a reality in the world’s most prosperous nation, soon enough they will notice that extensive shortages are already here and they will persist for months. The unprepared are usually the ones that end up becoming panic buyers. And once they realize that our leaders won’t come up with some sort of quick fix to this crisis, our entire system will be shaken to the core. As the blind lead the blind, our country heads to yet another critical season while most people remain unaware of the looming threats.