As Pete Buttigieg Declared Victory, Shipping Backlog Continued, and Spread

US Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks after a tour of the Ports
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, California — Shipping backlogs at American ports continued, and spread, even as Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg declared victory earlier this month, with import volumes dropping at West Coast ports — and beyond.

As Breitbart News reported, Buttigieg traveled to the Los Angeles and Long Beach port facilities on Jan. 11, celebrating what the Biden administration claimed was heroic progress in addressing supply chain problems. Outgoing L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti proclaimed that Buttigieg had “saved Christmas” because stores were able to stock shelves — without noting ongoing shortages throughout the country, and the fact that prices of available goods, including toys, had risen dramatically.

The administration’s main argument was that by threatening fines on companies that left inbound containers on the docks, they were able to induce companies to clear space. So-called “aging cargo” has been reduced by 62% at the L.A. and Long Beach ports.

But those spaces “have been replaced with empty containers waiting for shipment back to Asia,” the Wall Street Journal noted on Tuesday. COVID-19 and employee exhaustion have also hurt the effort to offload containers — and backups have now begun to spread to ports on the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Journal noted:

Combined inbound volume fell about 14% at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., in December compared with a year ago, according to preliminary data from the ports. It was the fourth straight month of year-over-year declines.

That was even as the backlog of container ships off the coast of Southern California kept growing. The queue of vessels waiting to enter the port complex rose past 100 during December, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, and reached a record 109 ships in early January.

John McCown, a shipping industry veteran and founder of Blue Alpha Capital, said import volumes at Gulf and East Coast ports rose during the second half of this year as West Coast volumes declined, suggesting a shift to less congested parts of the country. Now, container ships are starting to back up at those ports too.

The Biden administration has tried for months to reduce backlogs, especially at Los Angeles and Long Beach which together handle about 40% of U.S. container imports. The White House announced in October that terminals in Southern California would operate around the clock to speed the flow of containers to manufacturers and retailers, but the initiative has failed to attract truckers. “We’ve had very few takers,” said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

As of Friday, there were still over 100 vessels waiting to enter the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, near record levels.

Buttigieg has been absent or silent during some of his department’s most urgent crises, taking two months of unannounced parental leave last summer and saying little about the ongoing surge in mass looting from cargo trains in Los Angeles.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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