Port workers and supply chain personnel should be prioritised for COVID-19 vaccinations as part of a nationwide efforts to clear the unprecedented congestion on the US West Coast, according to industry experts.
The American Association Port Authorities (AAPA) told PTI that spikes in coronavirus cases have impacted the workforce at ports and related distribution networks, despite action being taken to protect those on the front line.
The Association added, “more should be done to prioritise vaccinations and provide more testing for port workers and other transportation system personnel” and that it has been urging governors across the US to act.
Furthermore, the AAPA said the federal government will have to invest more in the country’s supply chain system if it is going to cope with the traffic.
“US ports have met the challenges of unexpected high volumes, thus far. Yet, this extreme stress on America’s supply chain further highlights the critical need for Congress and the new Biden administration to make good on their word to fund substantial investment in America’s infrastructure.
“By funding COVID emergency programmes such as the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act and other long term capital investment programmes, the US government can ensure that maritime operations continue at the high level that Americans have come to depend on.”
The calls come as the key Pacific gateways, in particular the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, have come under tremendous pressure at the beginning of 2021 due to massive increases in volume from China.
Gene Seroka, Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles, said during a board meeting on 4 February that “we must get workers vaccinated and work with liners to cope with demand”.
The Port had a 17.7% year-on-year (YoY) increase in traffic in December 2020 and a 94% YoY jump in the week before Christmas.
Seroka said the Port of Los Angeles’ yard space was at 95% capacity and that it had “no room left” and emphasised that this was an astounding figure as a port is usually considered to be at capacity when 80% of its yard is in use.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) recently predicted that US imports are likely to break records every month until the summer of 2021, with (YoY) increase of 26.3% expected in March.
Seroka claimed, and that the Port of Los Angeles was unlikely to clear its backlog until mid-summer at the earliest at current rates.