I’ll admit right off that I’m not an expert when it comes to shipping products around the world. Stuff I need gets magically stocked on store shelves or in a website on the internet. I do have friends and clients in the shipping business but frankly, talking about ‘containers’ doesn’t float my retail boat. Yet, we’re getting plenty of news these days about Utah’s desire to establish an ‘inland port’ west of the new prison, which is west of the new airport.
What does an inland port do? It is a stop for containers to be loaded and unloaded, items shipped off again after being repackaged into lots to thousands of destinations. In effect it makes Utah a global trade port that supposedly is very cost effective and allows for customs to operate here to open and inspect the containers before the inventory moves elsewhere. Proponents here, like Derek Miller, the president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah and co-chair of the Inland Port Committee sees Salt Lake as a hub for international business-especially because we are one of the fastest growing economies in the United States. To my pea brain, this all seems silly to come here since we have ports along the coast to do those very things.
Ah, but talking to my friends who own small businesses trying to get goods these days lends a different light on the subject. Apparently, container ship congestion at ALL North American ports is crazy right now. If you visit the Marine Traffic website (marinetraffic.com) you can see the massive shipping traffic in real time anywhere in the world. Look to our West Coasts ports like San Diego, L.A./Long Beach and Oakland and you can view the congestion there yourself. When I checked in, I saw at least 30 ships sitting and waiting to unload in the L.A./Long Beach harbor. According to the website Expeditiors.com this situation is being driven by the “unprecedented surge in demand” and “vessels are experiencing severe delays for berth windows once they arrive at the terminal for discharge.” The lack of laborers, warehouses, delivery trucks and rail cars is stressing out the system, not to mention effects of Covid closures in California over the past year. The Journal of Commerce writes that they see no relief in sight especially for LA-LB congestion but predicts that there will be “Double-digit trans-Pacific volume growth projected through the first half of the year and at ports around the world.”
Locally, I don’t know how our proposed Inland Port can help if you can’t get the damned containers off ships. While we sit at home during Covidtime we’re browsing the web and ordering too much stuff-explaining some delays in packages. My friends in retail can’t stock their shelves like they used to, and worse, my friends in the building trades are seeing massive shortage deliveries in tile, carpet, lumber, steel products and more. Even the cost of old containers to use for tiny homes has gone up-if you can find one.