Tremendous West Coast Container Ship Backlog Is Getting Worse—As Is Industrial Production
Oct. 23, 2021 (EIRNS)—The extraordinary volume of delayed ocean freight from Asia around the West Coast ports of the United States, which is playing a significant role in creating inflationary shortages and breakdowns in the American economy, is continuing to worsen, according to a report published in FreightWaves Oct. 20.
An all-time record 103 large container ships—which carry most, but not all, of oceangoing non-bulk cargo—were either at port docks or waiting offshore at Los Angeles and Long Beach ports on that day. Some 79 of them were offshore, waiting with about 600,000 TEUs of cargo. The number had increased by 30 or so since EIR’s first report in mid-September, despite China’s factory production having dropped somewhat due to electricity shortages and plant shutdowns; and despite plant closures elsewhere in Asia due to COVID.
As for the time of delays, the average time for a container ship to wait offshore before even entering port had risen from a week in mid-September to 13 days now; some ships, run by smaller maritime companies, had been waiting up to six weeks according to FreightWaves. One of the ships had meanwhile, apparently, caused a damaging oil spill by dragging its anchor into a pipeline.
The freight itself is therefore waiting an average 13 days for a chance to wait—another week for unloading, 5-6 days to be moved off the ports to railheads or trucking depots, and then an irregular wait for truck pickups due to shortages of drivers (some drivers are avoiding these routes if they can, because they themselves are not paid for, or lose money on, the days they have to wait for the freight).
FreightWaves estimates $26 billion worth of cargo is suspended offshore, if that momentary snapshot of an inflationary process means anything.
While trying through hyperinflationary money-printing to import much more—and increasingly failing—the United States is producing less. U.S. industrial production “unexpectedly” fell by 1.3% in September month to month. All three categories dropped: Output at manufacturers by −0.7% in September, led by a −7.2% drop in production of motor vehicles and parts; utilities output by −3.6% in September; and mining output, which includes oil and natural gas, by −2.3%.
The good news is supposed to be that September represented a 4.6% rise in industrial production over the same month in 2020; but it didn’t take much to be September 2020. A clearer comparison shows that U.S. industry’s output in September, according to data graphed by the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, remained 3.6% lower than in September 2019—the month when this major financial collapse threat really reared its head with the co-called “repo crisis” of the interbank lending market.