As we get into the swing of 2022, I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year.
I truly hope that this turns out to be a great year for all sectors of the maritime goods movement industry, including shippers, BCOs, 3PLs, longshore workers, boat builders, tug operators, drayage firms, etc.
2021 was actually booming for some sectors in the industry, in particular a number of ports and terminal operators, which experienced record cargo movement. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the past couple of years have been tough on other sectors during COVID, which has shaken up the entire world.
Among the obstacles faced have been mask requirements and social distancing rules in the workplace—which are necessary, but burdensome, especially among those in the boatbuilding and maintenance business, as well as anyone else who’s required to work in an indoor location with other people.
And even though, there’s been record cargo movement in Southern California, occasional outbreaks of COVID cases among longshore workers is something that’s beginning to cause serious worker shortages.
In fact, about 800 longshore workers were unable to report to the docks for work at the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex during the second week of January, according to the Pacific Maritime Association, as reported at the time by the Wall Street Journal.
The absentees, which represented about 10% of the ports’ daily workforce, included workers who tested positive for the virus, were quarantining or awaiting test results, or who felt unwell, according to the WSJ report.
The PMA added that the number of daily worker infections has risen rapidly in recent weeks, escalating from several cases a day to dozens and then hitting about 150 a day in early January.
“Due to the worker shortfall, two container ships at the port complex received fewer dockworkers than requested and 13 ships didn’t receive any requested workers to load or unload cargo, effectively halting operations,” the WSJ reported. “That same day, 102 container ships waited for a berth at the port complex, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which monitors ship movements in the area.”
So, even as we’ve managed to get things back on the right track, obstacles like the current Omicron variant keep popping up and pulling us backward.
But these things happen in life and in business. And although the pandemic has made it more difficult for some industry sectors to conduct business as usual—including longshore workers and boat builders, as mentioned above—business can and will continue.
More than 30 years ago when I was shipping off to Marine Corps bootcamp, I received some very wise advice that helped carry me through the grueling months of basic training. Someone told me to always remember that the situation was only temporary, and to keep that in mind when things get really tough.
I did keep that in mind and it truly helped me through a situation where I felt like I’d been dropped off in a nightmare. But by keeping in mind that this would one day end and that all I needed to do was persevere through it, I was able to not only successfully complete boot camp and a stint in the Corps, I was able to apply the ‘only temporary’ philosophy to other difficult situations that popped up during the course of my life and career.
That philosophy—which essentially means ‘hang in there, you’ll get through this, you’ll make it through to the other side,’ has served me well over the years and is an example of the power of perseverance, not to mention positive thinking.
So as we fully enter into 2022, I’d like to remind you that although things haven’t completely returned to normal yet, it will take some firm determination this year—or in other words, some new year’s resolution—to make it through what has been a very trying—but also temporary— situation for the industry.
Let’s all hang in there. We’ll get through this. We’ll make it to the other side.
Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org