From Climate to Infrastructure Woes, Shipping Crisis Affects All

August 9, 2021

For 65 years, container shipping has enabled the world’s global supply chain to transport enormous amounts of goods to virtually anywhere in the world by ship. Within every container is the lifeblood of the globalized economy and the supplies to keep whole nations running. But all that shipping infrastructure has been put to the test since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and with climate change becoming a more pressing matter all at the same time, the world of shipping has buckled and taken a stumble.

In order to see how this shipping crisis came about and how it’s affecting us all one must take a look at the links that run through the entire process of what we know as the world supply chain. Any part of it being affected can throw the whole process off, as you’re about to see…

At the Mercy of Climate Change Disasters

The world’s climate is changing, and with it a range of natural disasters that have made clear our unpreparedness for them. Regions such as Western Europe as well as China’s Henan Province have both been severely hit by major flooding, causing immense damage to railways that were key to transporting countless containers of goods and materials to other parts of their respective nations and ultimately to ports for foreign trade. For both domestic and international shipping, this was a major blow to the global supply chain and has created ripple effects that almost everyone will feel as other supply components struggle to pick up after the loss.

These floods not only dealt damage to the shipping infrastructure of those regions, but they also affected the very manufacturers and warehouses that were producing and storing various goods for those areas, delivering an even deeper blow to the region’s part of the domestic and global supply chain. Aside from the cascade affect that these two regional climate disasters, the local areas hit by the floods will be suffering from the cost and time of repairs for most likely months at the least.

When these kinds of disasters strike, it takes a much longer time for ships waiting at port to get and load the containers they need before setting off to deliver them to another port. Which leads to the next challenge that we are facing.
COVID-19 Is Striking at Ports, Delta Continues to Loom

As the Delta Variant proves itself much more virulent, unvaccinated individuals are getting hit harder and faster by the COVID-19 pandemic. Outbreaks occurring at ports are further affecting the supply chain woes as workers are having to quarantine, and ports are introducing restrictions and measures in hopes of holding the pandemic back. The entire situation is leading to a congestion at ports, which in turn leads to a slow down in supplies getting transported to the rest of the world on land.

Physical Infrastructure at Ports Need an Upgrade

The combination of challenges facing our world today have put both a logistical and physical strain on our port infrastructure. Due to increased congestion at ports as matters have slowed, there are around 353 container ships that are left waiting outside of ports across the world—that’s more than double what the previous year had, displaying very clearly how backed up supply chains are, and that means more products and materials that are not reaching the places they need to go.

For some ports in the United States, such as the Port of Los Angeles, it is now taking as long as 12 days for a waiting ship to anchor, unload their cargo containers, and have them distributed out to their respective warehouses, factories, stores and shops, and residences. By having a ship left waiting, that adds to the total time needed to accomplish the job and see people have the things they need.

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