BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — As dozens of ships remain off the coast of Los Angeles due to a bottleneck in the city’s ports Thursday, Florida’s shipping port lobby rolled out the welcome mat.
“Let’s save Christmas,” the Florida Ports Council Twitter account declared, inviting ships to reroute through the Panama Canal. “Florida is where your success comes in.”
It’s true: the Sunshine State’s cargo terminals don’t come with a queue. As cruise ships arrived and departed from Port Canaveral Thursday afternoon, the cargo area sat quietly waiting for its next arrival.
While Canaveral is far from Florida’s largest port, officials said it makes up 20% of its capacity.
“Florida has plenty of deep water ports to help reroute your goods into the USA,” Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis piled on.
University of Florida Supply Chain Management Center Director Asoo Vakharia said the pressure in LA could be attributed to COVID-19 and the slowdown of global shipping last year. He said layoffs ensued, and hiring did not rise as fast as demand in 2021.
“We’re learning is that these things can’t play out quickly,” Vakharia explained.
President Biden has enacted a plan to help Los Angeles shift to 24/7 operations, which Vakharia said should help snuff out the struggle in approximately four to six weeks.
He was less enthusiastic about rerouting ships to Florida for several reasons. First, many of Florida’s ports aren’t deep enough to handle the massive container ships Los Angeles can, which he said is why that port is the preferred destination for so many companies.
Even if the smaller ships head east, there are other logistics to think about: namely, how to get cargo to its destination and who pays for it.
“Is this going to be another subsidy from the government side?” he asked.
One solution he did propose — though it would not benefit Florida — was to have the biggest ships offload onto smaller ships out at sea, which could take the containers to shallower ports on the West Coast. However, that too had significant challenges, he said.
Ultimately, Vakharia was in favor of doing nothing at all and letting the bottleneck clear on its own with the 24/7 scheduling in place. He said consumers should plan ahead this holiday season by ordering items earlier than usual but panic wasn’t necessary since most items were still arriving.
Things with computer chips, including cars, would be among deliveries that could be delayed, since there is an additional backlog at chip manufacturing facilities.
He also said more efforts were needed to get longshoremen and port workers back to their jobs after reports said many ports were facing worker shortages despite traditionally high pay rates.
“Maybe the government can step in there,” he said.