As 2021 draws to a close, it’s the perfect time to take a deep breath and reflect on the peaks and valleys of the past year. Our team has collected some of the biggest headlines and developments in logistics news from 2021. As always, we have our finger on the pulse of logistics developments to help our customers stay ahead of the curve.
Let’s take a look back at the past 12 months of shipping snarls, trucking shortages, freight delays, and more. Better yet, let’s look ahead at what we’ve learned and can expect in the coming year.
February: COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Challenges the Limits of an Already Strained Supply Chain
February brought the vaccine rollout into full focus as production ramped up and the actual rollout plan began to take shape. In a tight year for logistics, the temperature-sensitive and cold storage supply chain was forced to rise to the challenge swiftly.
The requirements for the transport of vaccines vary widely, with a fairly large gap between varieties. The Pfizer vaccine requires temperatures between -130°F and -76°F. In contrast, the Moderna vaccine calls for -58ºF to 5ºF. Our team discussed this and some of the other challenges facing the industry ahead of the vaccine rollout.
March: The Ever Given Blocked a Single-Lane Portion of the Suez Canal
Only a few months into a year already fraught with delays, the consequences of a blocked Suez Canal rocked the entire logistics world. After six days and hundreds of waylaid shipments, the Ever Given was freed, but not without significant consequences.
The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) requested an estimated $ 916 million from the owners of the Ever Given in an attempt to cover the costs of delays caused by the blockage. See our Suez Canal Market Advisory for an initial look at the predictions surrounding the incident.
May: Trucking Capacity Shortages as Cargo Reroutes to the Ports of Savannah and Houston
As stimulus checks swept across the nation, retailers rushed to get their goods to port ahead of summer demand. That led to backlogs at ports on the west coast, which prompted supply chains to reroute goods to the ports of Savannah and Houston.
However, despite the adjustment, 2021 began to feel what would later turn into an all-encompassing issue: a lack of capacity to move shipments once they were brought on land. Truck driver shortages, redirected routes, and an imbalance in supply chain demand all led to clogged warehouses and delayed freight—a problem that would only worsen with time.
July: Container Embargo on USWC to the Chicago Global IV Terminal in Chicago
In July, an embargo was put in place to alleviate the backlog of containers waiting at the terminal in Chicago. Not only did pandemic-related restrictions and backlogs cause delays across the country, but weather and fires caused even more trouble for US West Coast ports. Steamship lines, truckers, and forwarders all alerted their clients, hoping to prepare everyone involved for the delays and issues to come. In hindsight, this was foreshadowing for the congestion the Ports of Long Beach and LA would soon see. You can read about the embargo in our Market Advisory.
September and October: West Coast Ports Opt In to 24/7 Operations to Help Ease Cargo Woes
The Port of Los Angeles (POLA) moved to 24/7 operations in mid-September, and Port of Long Beach (POLB) followed shortly after in October, in an attempt to accommodate the bottlenecks that were slowing down operations.
This move was crucial since the two ports account collectively for 40% of US-bound imports. Unfortunately, moving to 24/7 operations wasn’t as simple as keeping ports open. It demanded increased labor, trucks to transport cargo, and more resources that were already in scarce supply across the board.
October: To Battle Congestion, California Seeks Private, Public Land for Container Storage
In late October, TOC Logistics’ Ground Domestic Product Owner, Justin Barnes, weighed in on a market already flooded with freight. Although government and industry officials faced container backlogs at Southern California ports and an overall supply chain crisis, a lack of space and equipment severely limited operations. When terminals were so cramped they couldn’t accept empty container returns, ports had to turn to other solutions for container storage.
Looking Ahead to 2022: The Sun Will Come Out…Eventually
Or at least that’s what our team is predicting. Although the Biden administration has gotten progressively more involved in attempting to solve logistics backups, at least in LA and Long Beach, there is no overnight fix for anything the industry is facing today.
That being said, things won’t stay bleak forever. We’re expecting to see some congestion relief starting in the second half of 2022. While the first half of next year will likely be impacted by labor shortages, new COVID variants, and the continual pile-up off the US coast, we’re optimistic that 2022 will finish out in a better place than 2021 has.
Thanks for all you’ve done in 2021. Here’s to a very, very happy new year!