We have a 5-alarm fire here Higher costs delayed goods

We have a 5-alarm fire here Higher costs delayed goods may turn shipping backlog into a holiday nightmare. A worldwide supply chain crisis is making it increasingly difficult to bring imported goods into this country, sharply driving up the costs to get it here.

And while cargo ships are not getting backed up at the ports of New York and New Jersey — as they have been so dramatically in Savannah and in Los Angeles and Long Beach on the West Coast — it might be hard to get some holiday gifts this year, some warn.

“There will be shortages,” predicted Dan Maffei, chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission. “Have your kids write to Santa Claus early this year.”

At marine terminals around the globe, cargo has been piling up amid an unprecedented traffic jam at sea, while the increases in prices to move it all has been increasing at a staggering rate.

At Port Newark in New Jersey on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-5th Dist., and Rep. Rep. Donald Payne Jr., D-10th Dist., spoke about the impact of that on businesses and families, and called for hearings into the soaring shipping costs — suggesting that a lack of competition among the big ocean-going carriers was in part to blame.

According to Gottheimer, the average cost to move a shipping container has gone from $1,000 before the start of the pandemic, to between $22,000 and $30,000 today. “We have a 5-alarm fire here. We need to fix this crisis before the holidays,” he said.

Payne said the rise in prices has been arbitrary. “There is no rhyme or reason for it,” he complained.

The supply chain turmoil coming in the wake of the pandemic — which cut off many supplies and goods to manufacturers and retailers for months — has led to a practical standstill in some ports, in some cases because there is no place to put any of the cargo being unloaded, experts say.

According to Maffei, as many as 70 ships have had to sit at anchor at the West Coast ports waiting for an open berth.

“Demand for goods abroad is jamming up the system,” he said. “But at the end of the day, it comes down to supply and demand and that’s causing problems.”

Bringing the cargo ashore, though, has not been a problem at the ports serving New Jersey and New York, which stretches from Port Newark and Port Elizabeth, to marine terminals in Bayonne, Staten Island and Brooklyn.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the seaport, said there are no labor shortages nor significant shipping backlogs. As of Tuesday morning, there were just 2 vessels at anchor off port waiting to dock. And year-to-date, container vessels have averaged just 1.3 days at anchor.

At the same time, they said the port has had record-setting growth in cargo volumes for 13 consecutive months, moving 780,782 containers (as measured in TEUs, or 20-foot equivalent units) in August 2021. That was a record for the month, and third-highest monthly volume since the port began tracking cargo activity.

Sam Ruda, director, Director of the Port Authority’s Port Department, said the supply of truck chassis — which are used to move containers once they are offloaded from a ship — has been tight.

“But cargo is moving,” he said.

The rising cost of moving it, however, is causing serious problems for some businesses.

Matt Feiner, president and CEO of SG Companies, said the crisis has meant “incredibly tough times” for the Hackensack-based apparel company whose retail accounts include Macy’s Nordstrom, DSW and Target.

“It’s supply chain hell,” he said, referring to the higher costs of shipping.

The World Shipping Council has said the driver of these problems remains the jump in demand for imports by U.S. consumers and businesses, noting that of the past 12 months, 11 months have had a year-on-year growth in spending on consumer goods of over 10%.

As for the lack of disruptions in New York Harbor, John Nardi, president of the New York Shipping Association — which represents the marine terminals, stevedores and shipping companies that operate in New York and New Jersey — said the terminal operators here have been careful not to overcommit and take more ships than they can handle.

He blamed the logistics problem that has developed nationwide on warehouse operators who have no place to put the goods now flooding back into the country after the pandemic.

“If there is no place to put the cargo, it stacks up at the terminals,” said Nardi. “That forces ships to wait.”

At its heart, he maintained, is still a problem of demand.

“Everyone’s buying,” he said. “Furniture, washers, dryers refrigerators. That doesn’t come in an Amazon truck.”

This combo of photos provided by FBI Denver via @FBIDenver shows missing person Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito. Petito, 22, vanished while on a cross-country trip in a converted camper van with her boyfriend. Her body was discovered Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Wyoming. (Courtesy of FBI Denver via AP)AP

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — Cross-country traveler Gabby Petito was strangled to death, a Wyoming coroner announced Tuesday.

Petito, 22, died three to four weeks before her body was found Sept. 19 near an undeveloped camping area along the border of Grand Teton National Park in remote northern Wyoming, Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue said in a news conference.

It wasn’t clear if the determination might lead to additional charges against Petito’s boyfriend and traveling partner, Brian Laundrie, who is considered a person of interest in her disappearance and remains unaccounted for.

Blue declined to say more about the autopsy or the case overall, saying he was prevented by Wyoming law that limits what coroners can release.

Petito had been on a cross-country trip with her boyfriend. She was reported missing Sept. 11 by her parents after she did not respond to calls and texts for several days while the couple visited parks in the West.

Blue previously classified Petito’s death as a homicide — meaning her death was caused by another person — but had not disclosed how she was killed pending further autopsy results.

Petito’s case has led to renewed calls for people to pay greater attention to cases involving missing Indigenous women and other people of color, with some commentators describing the intense coverage of her disappearance as “missing white woman syndrome.”

The search for Laundrie has generated a frenzy, with TV personalities like Duane Chapman — known as Dog the Bounty Hunter — and longtime “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh working to track him down.

Petito and Laundrie posted online about their trip in a white Ford Transit van converted into a camper. They got into a physical altercation Aug. 12 in Moab, Utah, that led to a police stop, which ended with police deciding to separate the quarreling couple for the night. No charges were filed, and no serious injuries were reported.

Investigators have searched for Laundrie in Florida and also searched his parents’ home in North Port, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Sarasota.

Federal officials in Wyoming last month charged Laundrie with unauthorized use of a debit card, alleging he used a Capital One Bank card and someone’s personal identification number to make unauthorized withdrawals or charges worth more than $1,000 during the period in which Petito went missing. They did not say to whom the card belonged.

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