OAKLAND, Calif - We've been reporting on massive congestion problems at West Coast container ship ports that's causing store shelves to go wanting to seasonal imported goods. Now, Santa Claus may be getting involved.
Ron Fisher owns Fisher Nuts, a Modesto grower, processor and exporter of almonds who, like tens of thousands of farmers raising more than 350 different crops, can't get containers or ships to foreign markets.
"It’s extremely difficult for us in an export situation to the market," said Fisher. "Delays cost the farmer dearly. You have some either value loss of you actually have to dump the product due to decay or spoilage," said Fisher.
But wait, there's more. If it's under your Christmas tree, odds are GSC Logistics, at the Port of Oakland, had a hand in getting it from the ship to retailers. "At the rate we're going, we're not going to see Christmas merchandise arrive in the stores until January," said Scott Taylor, CEO of GSC Logistics.
Port congestion has been going on for more than a year now, say some experts, is the worst it's ever been. Ocean carriers are delaying shipments or skipping them altogether. "Right now, there's about 55 container ships that are at anchor, another 30 at berth and they're extremely constrained down in southern California," said Mr. Taylor.
At the same time, the Port of Oakland needs work, but most of the ships are not coming here either to drop off containers or pick up especially perishable agriculture exports that support many jobs. "They're skipping Oakland because the vessel lines, which are mostly foreign owned are looking to make a fast buck, shall we say. Said Taylor.
Instead of dropping products off in Oakland or picking up exports, they are heading right back to Asia where vessel owners can get as much as 20 to 40 times more than Oakland agricultural exports will fetch for them. The vessel owners explained the worsening problem this way six weeks ago, blaming it on worldwide congestion.
"We aren't filling orders and we aren't shipping as much as we could because of the congestion and because of tie ups in equipment," said Pacific Merchant Shipping Association executive Mike Jacob.
Land shipping the containers from L.A. to the Bay is not an option. "Rail is almost impossible. The truck rates would triple or quadruple and that's what's happening right now," said Taylor.
Though the Federal Maritime Commission has opened up an investigation into the situation we are racing the clock for the holidays and it's not in our favor.