Writing the phrase “supply chain crisis” has become wearisome. It is known now to nearly everyone (certainly readers of this newsletter), but with every which way it manifests, there are facts that continue to be uncovered — new stories to tell. The New York Times ran a great piece that was a deep dive into the Port of Savannah, one of the biggest, but perhaps lesser known ports in the United States. It’s a great place to dive in.
As major ports contend with a staggering pileup of cargo, what once seemed like a temporary phenomenon — a traffic jam that would eventually dissipate — is increasingly viewed as a new reality that could require a substantial refashioning of the world’s shipping infrastructure.
As the Savannah port works through the backlog, [Griff Lynch, the executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority] has reluctantly forced ships to wait at sea for more than nine days. On a recent afternoon, more than 20 ships were stuck in the queue, anchored up to 17 miles off the coast in the Atlantic.
Savannah is a quintessential American city. It is not representative of everyone or everything, but its diversity, age, and character stand out in the peculiar ways that many smaller American cities are noteworthy. The Georgian and Victorian homes lining the streets abut the many oaks draped in Spanish moss. It attracts its fair share of tourists, but it is a quaint, quiet town. It doesn’t host the bacchanalias of New Orleans, nor have the glitz of Charleston. But it does have one of the largest ports in the country and it’s experience of the supply chain crisis is indeed very American.
…the situation at the port of Savannah attests to a more complicated and insidious series of overlapping problems. It is not merely that goods are scarce. It is that products are stuck in the wrong places, and separated from where they are supposed to be by stubborn and constantly shifting barriers.
The shortage of finished goods at retailers represents the flip side of the containers stacked on ships marooned at sea and massed on the riverbanks. The pileup in warehouses is itself a reflection of shortages of truck drivers needed to carry goods to their next destinations.
Mr. Joyner, 46, designs his furniture in Savannah while relying on factories from China and India to manufacture many of his wares. The upheaval on the seas has slowed deliveries, limiting his sales.
He pointed to a brown leather recliner made for him in Dallas. The factory is struggling to secure the reclining mechanism from its supplier in China.
“Where we were getting stuff in 30 days, they are now telling us six months,”
With the U.S. holidays around the corner, this doesn’t look like it will abate any time soon.
Bottlenecks have a way of causing more bottlenecks. As many companies have ordered extra and earlier, especially as they prepare for the all-consuming holiday season, warehouses have become jammed. So containers have piled up at the Port of Savannah.
If this slice of America is telling us anything, it’s that if there is an end to this, it’s not close at hand. Check out the whole story here.