JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – News4Jax wants to tackle the big issues that affect us all. We call this new initiative Solutionsers. The idea is to find global solutions to problems, such as the supply chain crisis.
You’ve seen the stalemate of container ships sitting lazily offshore. Ships are filled with items destined for store shelves – items that business owners and consumers desperately need.
Latasha Kaiser owns restaurant KraVegan, located in a strip mall outside of Jacksonville. His whole business is substituting one ingredient for another to make his dishes vegan.
“Banana flower – I use it for fish,” she explained. “Again, not in stock.”
And now, with the shortage in the supply chain, his job is all the more difficult.
“We have one box left that I’m about to find and track down after this, the banana flower,” she said.
At present, Kaiser cannot find the wholesale product.
“It was available when I ordered it, but by the time the truck was loaded it was out of stock.”
Kaiser says if she can even find what she needs, she’ll have to pay the same price we would pay at the grocery store.
This problem goes far beyond KraVegan’s cooking. When borders closed around the world in 2020, shipments of goods stopped.
When businesses began to reopen, demand returned. Cargo ships full of items waited to be unloaded at ports. However, there were not enough workers to unload them and not enough truckers to deliver them to stores. And as the demand has exceeded the supply, the costs keep rising. “The price has tripled on a lot of things,” Kaiser said. “Robust, organic, olive oil, we don’t want to talk about what this deal is like. I’ll just say it: it was between $28 and $32. Now it’s between $55 and $65, and that’s astronomically insane!”
We wanted to know if there was any relief happening and who was getting success in addressing supply chain issues. So we traveled to Savannah, Georgia, where they’re thinking about how to move forward, starting with the docks.
“Is there one thing to fix this supply chain problem?” we asked Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch at the 2022 Savannah State of the Port event.
“No, there’s not a single thing to fix it, but what I see is good things happening,” Lynch replied.
The Port State event is a way for the Georgia Ports Authority to showcase its accomplishments and what it does well. But this has not always been the case. In October, like the rest of the country, Savannah’s ports had up to 30 freighters waiting to be unloaded at any given time.
“And how many do you have today?” we asked Lynch.
“Zero, there are no ships at anchor today,” he replied.
The Port of Savannah is the third largest in the nation, with plans to increase container capacity by 60% over the next three years.
For perspective, according to the Georgia Ports Authority, on February 22, 2022, the number of ships waiting in US ports was:
New York-New Jersey: 15
Virginia Port Authority: 15
Pacific Northwest Ports: 18
South Carolina Port Authority: 34
“Part of our values is creativity and that’s asserting ourselves in the supply chain when necessary and finding solutions,” Lynch said. “And one of the solutions to that problem isn’t actually on the water. You’re going to have to go further inland.
Inland, stacked like those of Lego, are six different pop-up yards owned by the Georgia Ports Authority. It’s an empty lot that, in total, provides an additional 500,000 TEUs of annual container space.
· TEUs are how freighters measure space.
· A standard 20ft shipping container is one TEU.
· Most freighters contain between 10,000 and 21,000 TEUs.
Which means that combined, the six pop-up yards can accommodate up to 50 container ships.
“We need to provide our customers with more space because they have nowhere to send their cargo,” Lynch said.
He explains that between the shortage of truckers and the delay in order times, companies are not always ready to pick up their shipments when they arrive at the port. Pop-up yards provide temporary accommodation for these containers, creating more space at the port for other vessels to unload.
“There are decisions and things we’ve done that will be integral to our roster going forward because of the challenges we’ve had,” Lynch explained.
But the Georgia Ports Authority’s executive director also said pop-up containers alone won’t solve a global supply chain problem.
“We are still against that. We don’t have any ships at anchor today, but since many ports are very congested, customers are calling to ask if they can bring their ship to us,” he said. “So we can’t handle 20 million TEUs, okay, so we’re building to get to 7.5 to 9 million TEUs. Every port is a finite number. The good thing about the Georgia Ports Authority is that our ability to expand is incredible and unparalleled.It’s just a matter of how quickly we can build it.
Lynch adds that time is of the essence and every day is a race against time to keep ships moving and businesses open.
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