Ongoing port contracts, supply chain issues affecting Heartland

A contract dispute on the West Coast could affect consumers here in the Heartland and around the country.
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 4:23 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 12, 2022 at 3:24 AM CDT
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - A contract dispute on the West Coast could affect consumers here in the Heartland and around the country.

Experts say it could affect how soon you get things you want to buy.

Nearly 40 percent of the Nation’s imports are handled at these West Coast ports and most items shipped there are delayed.

The labor contract covering more than 22,000 port workers at 29 Pacific Coast sites stretching from California to Washington state expired July 1.

Negotiations began in May between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, but the parties have so far failed to reach an agreement.

One professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale said some companies are routing cargo away from the West Coast elsewhere, like Houston or the East Coast.

Gregory DeYong is an associate professor of operations management at SIU. He said this backlog on the West Coast ports, especially Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, is affecting businesses across the country and here locally.

“Since so much product comes through those ports, it really affects everybody. It doesn’t matter if you live close to them or far away,” DeYong said.

We called around in southern Illinois to see if anyone is having major delays in getting their product in.

Anderson’s Warehouse Furniture said certain items that used to take 20 days to get in, now take up to 12 months.

DeYong said the smaller companies are the ones to feel the biggest burden.

“Probably the smaller the company, the worst the impact. Because a large importer like Walmart literally imports tens-of-thousands of containers a day. And losing a few or a few hundred or even a few thousand for a day or two is bad, but not the end of the world. But if I’m a really small businessman and I bring in one container a month or a couple containers a year and my container gets delayed, that could be the end of my business for me,” DeYong said.

He said the slowdown is still a problem on the ports, but it has not reached the critical stage. Although, ships are having to anchor farther out than they did before.

“The current backlog there is not measured in days, it’s really measured more on weeks. They’ve actually moved the ships to have them anchor about 150 miles off shore because there are so many ships backlogged waiting to offload,” he said.

Back here in the Heartland, SIU is starting a center for supply chain management and logistics.

Their goal is to help local businesses with training to find them opportunities and to promote the supply chain management careers for their students.

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