TAMPA, Fla. — As dozens of cargo ships sit backlogged off the coast of California, a global supply chain nightmare gets worse. Experts say that will lead to the raising of prices of goods for consumers as demand outweighs supply.
But the Florida Ports Council believes they have a solution to the problem. They want shipping firms to send their ships through the Panama Canal, to the Sunshine State.
“We get it, decades ago it was the shortest route from Asian ports including China and Japan, and it made sense to stuff a lot of cargo flow through those California ports,” said Mike Rubin, President and CEO of the Florida Ports Council.
But now, Rubin says that while the trip may be quick, it may not be the most efficient or cost-effective route. Especially as some ships sit anchored for months.
“It’s about a 7-day voyage through the Panama Canal. Yes, it may be a little more expensive to take that route on a water tour, but you’re paying for moorage fees, you’re paying for other fees over there just sitting off the coast, and your product’s not getting to the shelves in time,” said Rubin.
As of Tuesday, October 12, the Marine Exchange of Southern California stated in a tweet that 144 total ships are in port at Los Angeles and Long Beach. Of those, 80 are at anchor or drift areas, and 64 are at berth. In all, containing billions of dollars worth of merchandise and goods on board.
“We have the opportunity to provide those shipping lines and beneficial cargo owners a more efficient route that can get their product not only to the third-largest domestic market in the country but also to other markets outside of Florida, within 2 days,” said Rubin.
Rubin says the Florida ports are ready to take on new business.
In a statement from Port Tampa Bay they say:
"Port Tampa Bay is not seeing any congestion or delays that have been creating issues for the other ports. Our port stands ready to welcome new business and serve as a supply chain alternative and solution. Port Tampa Bay's container volume has increased by over 40% over the past 11 months, and our port has easily accommodated the growth to stay ahead of the curve thanks to our terminal build-out program. Port Tampa Bay is in discussions with container lines about expanding their services to serve our growing market which includes distribution centers along the I-4 corridor."
“We realize how important it is to get those goods to market, to not be the grinch that stole Christmas,” said Rubin.
However, Rubin adds that this is not a problem that can be fixed overnight.
“We need to send that message to the major retailers,” said Rubin.
But something he's hoping Congress will work on in order to create more efficiency in the future.
“COVID added to it, but I think it’s just, we’ve got a growing population that’s not slowing down anytime soon, so I think this is a reflection of a mindset,” said Rubin.
In the meantime, as the logjam persists, he says if you haven't started shopping for the holidays, it's getting to be too late.
“It hasn’t quite hit yet for most of the consumers, it’s starting to, prices are going up. If you haven’t started shopping already for Christmas, you’re probably too late. So it’s gonna become a bigger issue in the next few months,” said Rubin.