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Bottleneck at LA port easing as dock worker negotiations continue

Last year, and early into 2022, the Port of Los Angeles emerged as a major bottleneck in the U.S. supply chain. At its peak, cargo ships could be waiting nine days or longer to be unloaded and shipped off to stores.

While things have been improving, there are still bumps along the way, frustrating consumers across the country. It’s a frustration that Chief Executive of the port of Los Angeles, Gene Seroka, understands quite well. “We've been moving record amounts of cargo [like a] peak season month, every month for the better part of two years,” explained Seroka. “It's been like taking 10 lanes of freeway traffic In Los Angeles, and trying to squeeze it into five. You're still moving a lot of cargo, but not enough compared to the demand.”

Seroka said at one point in January, the port of Los Angeles had at its peak 109 ships waiting to be unloaded. Sunday, he said just 32 were waiting to be brought to shore. 

Though he expects some small disruptions due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, inflation, and consumer demand, Seroka said the busy season is right around the corner.

“What I see coming up is an earlier than normal peak season, combined with seasonal products, think of back to school, fall fashion, all of that should start combining at the end of June. So we've got to keep this cargo moving now and get prepared for elevated volume as we hit the summertime,” he added.

As Seroka was visiting Washington, D.C., negotiations are continuing for thousands of dock workers on the West Coast. Seroka believes the negotiations between Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union will be productive. When two groups negotiated in 2002, a lockout occurred for 10 days, but Seroka said he doesn’t expect a similar event to happen this time around.

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