Long-Awaited Words on Supply Chain: 'Worst Is Behind Us'

'Wall Street Journal' expects port backlogs to disappear in early 2022
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2021 11:13 AM CST
Finally, Signs of Hope on Supply Chain Trouble
Shipping containers are stacked over a truck at the Port of Los Angeles on Nov. 10, 2021, in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Headlines about supply chain logjams have been prominent amid the pandemic, but now the Wall Street Journal offers a note of optimism. "Globally speaking, the worst is behind us," Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics tells the newspaper. The gist of the story is that issues that have led to notorious backups at US shipping ports have peaked or are on the cusp of peaking. The newspaper expects port backlogs to all but disappear in early 2022 thanks in part to two factors: the end of the holiday shopping season and the start of the Lunar New Year, which will close factories in Asia for a week in February. At that point, barring unforeseen trouble perhaps related to a new COVID surge, the backlogs should be essentially gone.

In the meantime, major US retailers such as Walmart and Target say their shelves already are in good shape for the holiday rush. That's good news for them, because as Axios points out, the crunch at the California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach—while improving—means that anything not already off boats probably won't make it to stores anytime soon. The number of ships anchored offshore at the ports is still north of 70, though that's down from 86 earlier in the month. Before the pandemic hit, the figure was typically much lower—as in zero. Axios details three factors to watch in the coming year, including negotiations over an expiring labor contract for West Coast port workers, tougher environmental rules on ships that could force them to slow down, and the possibility of a "reverse logjam" in Asia. (More supply chain stories.)

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