“Headlines bemoaning shortages of everything from PlayStations and Care Bears to medical devices are no longer a daily occurrence. Just six vessels were waiting to dock at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Tuesday — a tiny fraction of the 109 that were stuck outside the San Pedro Bay back in January. Meanwhile, the cost of sending a 40-foot shipping container from Asia to the West Coast is now under $3,000, far below last year’s high of more than $20,000.
Still, the structural problems that enabled many of the delays, price hikes, and shortages over the past few years haven’t gone away.Shipping prices have not quite returned to their pre-pandemic levels, truck drivers are still in short supply, and some in the logistics industry are already predicting that there will be problems during the upcoming holiday season. More broadly, the capitalist system responsible for manufacturing and delivering goods throughout the world has not been “fixed.” In fact, it remains as vulnerable to disruption as ever. Consumers are still seeing widespread inflation, not only for energy and food but also for products that oftendepend on Pacific shipping routes, including apparel and new vehicles, according to the consumer price index summary published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last week.
“If the supply chain is a patient coming into the ER, then it’s not bleeding to death anymore,” said Daniel Maffei, the chair of the Federal Maritime Commission. “But there are still a lot of issues with the supply chain. Some of them and maybe even the bulk of them predate Covid.””