As the labor dispute at West Coast ports drags on, publishers face an increased likelihood of delays in receiving shipments from Asian printers. Since PW first reported on the impact the impasse between dockworkers and management was having on shipments two weeks ago, scattered port shutdowns have taken place leading to more congestion at ports up and down the West Coast.
The result is that ships en route from Asia are likely to take 55 to 60 days to reach inland hubs in the U.S. (such as Chicago) rather than the usual 25 to 30 days, said Ray Ambriano, COO of Meadows Wye & Co., an international logistics company specializing in the publishing industry.
Ambriano said he is advising clients to begin to implement contingency plans, on a limited basis. For a publisher with 10 containers for example, Ambriano said two or three containers should be diverted to East Coast ports. A similar number should be diverted to Canada, and the rest should continue to go through the West Coast. Trying to move all shipments to the East Coast would “overwhelm” the facilities there, Ambriano explained.
Companies have already started sending more cargo to the East Coast, with shipments to Norfolk, Va., up about 15% this week, over last week. Ambriano also advised publishers that choose to use the East Coast ports to truck books to their distribution centers, rather than using rail lines. Additionally, Ambriano is telling customers to alert accounts that penalize publishers for late shipments that some titles might indeed be late.
Even if the dispute is settled soon, Ambriano estimated it would take at least a month for the congestion at the West Coast ports to ease. It will take even longer, Ambriano said, to gauge how much of the shipping delays were due to the labor impasse, as opposed to systemic issues. He noted that since the Great Recession, there has been little investment in port infrastructure, the size of vessels are getting bigger, and more goods are being shipped. All of these factors, he believes, have put more pressure on the ports.