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The World Trade Center St. Louis recently hosted a webinar discussing the ongoing national supply chain crisis and the role the St. Louis region can play in helping to alleviate it for businesses and consumers. The event featured a panel of experts discussing the global challenges being faced and how routing it through the bi-State St. Louis region can be part of the solution.

Mary Lamie, Executive Vice President of Multi Modal Enterprises for Bi-State Development, and head of the St. Louis Regional Freightway said that companies are looking for a location that is both multimodal and globally accessible, both of which are qualities the St. Louis region possesses. With the most efficient inland port in the nation and six Class I railroads, the St. Louis region offers access to all four quadrants of the United States, making St. Louis an ideal location for customers who need to quickly move during supply chain disruptions. The Mississippi River to the gulf coast supply chain also provides access to a wide array of international customers in places such as Europe, Africa, and South America.

Executive Director of America’s Central Port Dennis Wilmsmeyer called attention to the proposed merger between Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern that would put the region on par with Chicago in terms of rail connectivity. He also cited the additional advantages the region offers with its central location putting shippers just a two-day truck drive from 70% of the U.S. population, and advances with Container-on-Barge and proposed Container-on-Vessel services make shipping on the inland waterways even more competitive.

Wilmsmeyer spoke about how the supply chain problem began. At the start of the pandemic, China was the first to shut down factories and slow production at a time when the rest of the world also shut down. This led to a sudden surge in demand for things like home improvement goods and electronic computer products as people transitioned to working from home, but the supply of product coming out of major global trade hubs like China suddenly came to a grinding halt. This initiated what is an ongoing supply chain problem. “You add to that the sheer backlog of things … going to the Chinese ports, stacking up there, then getting loaded on ships and coming to California for shipment across the United States and then the backlog there… It is an entire movement, slowly, [like] a watermelon moves through a snake, that backlog slowly moves through the system,” said Wilmsmeyer. He added that what we are seeing now – and have experienced over the past year, especially on the West Coast – is that this whole movement has further been slowed by a shortage of workers, from truck drivers, and rail workers to dock hands.

The St. Louis region is positioned to be part of the solution to this crisis, particularly pertaining to congestion at West Coast ports. “The St. Louis region is a reliever for other regions, such as Chicago,” said Lamie. “Our port system can serve as an alternative for others during national and global supply chain disruptions.” She also called attention to the ongoing infrastructure expansion projects that are helping to ensure the region can continue to have the capacity to  serve as a reliever.

Panelist Robert Shapiro, a partner with Thompson Coburn explained that there may also be certain options available to importers to speed up the shipping process by changing where they choose to clear customs, and that there is a cost-versus-timeliness tradeoff to be considered.

“There’s an option when you’re importing goods to either clear them through customs at the first port of arrival, or you can clear customs at the port of destination. So, let’s say you’re shipping a container from Los Angeles, CA (LA) to St. Louis, MO. You could make entry in LA, or you could conduct the customs formalities in St. Louis. There’s some extra costs to push that clearance route out to St. Louis because you have basically two entries that you would be filing, but it does facilitate moving the goods off of the pier more quickly,” Shapiro said. “Customs wouldn’t be examining containers in Los Angeles, which slows things down – if an examination is going to occur, it would happen in St. Louis.”

Shapiro added that, while there’s been much talk of the government stepping in to require changes at the West Coast ports to ease the congestion, there are limits to the role the government can play in helping alleviate this crisis, and the processes involved means that change is often implemented too slowly.

“I’m an optimist. I think we are already beginning to see some relief, and I think we will be through this crisis by middle of 2022 or into the third quarter. But it takes time to redo things,” Shapiro said. “I also think that some of it depends on the progress of the pandemic. We were with Delta now we’re dealing with Omicron. It is possible that the next variant will delay progress.”

To learn more about the World Trade Center St. Louis and the initiatives they’re involved in, visit


About World Trade Center St. Louis

For more than 25 years, as the international division of St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, WTC has supported growth for the region’s businesses, most importantly, ensuring St. Louis companies are represented in an increasingly global marketplace. From customized research to trade training, hosting inbound/outbound delegations and managing St. Louis’ Foreign Trade Zone, WTC brings together a strong system of business and government agencies to support trade and investment and enhance St. Louis’ global connectivity. To learn more, visit


Despite Shortage, Containers Rotting in Depots?

Container availability across China is still at a record low, while US ports are overwhelmed by a surge of shipping containers from Asia, full of products retailers are eager to get on shelves for the holidays.

Due to the fastest increase in demand after months full of blank sailings, container availability for 40HCs is only at 0.05 CAx points compared to 0.63 at the same time last year, according to the Container Availability Index. 

Although the US East Coast is usually a surplus location of equipment (last year’s CAx value for 40DC was 0.7), the container availability dropped to 0.43 indicating actually fewer containers than needed. 

Containers spend 45 days on average in depot 

The average and median time of containers (in days) between “empty in depot” and “empty dispatched” | Source: Research Project FraunhoferCML & Container xChange

Although containers are very much in need, they still spend on average 45 days empty at depots according to a research project by FraunhoferCML and Container xChange.

Especially in regions with low container availability such as China and the US, the average is comparably high with 61 and 66 days compared to the global average of 45 days.

The high standard deviation of 85 days in North America and 129 days across Asia indicates many cases where containers spend far more days inside depots than the average suggests. 

Compared to the Middle East (21 days on average) and Europe (23 days on average) it takes more than 30 extra days to move containers out of the depots and make money with them. 

Holiday Imports Decline as Port Issues Linger

Los Angeles – Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to continue to slow down this month as cargo congestion and other issues continue to impact port operations on the U.S. West Coast.

The volume slide is a result of “far-sighted retailers instituting costly contingency plans early on to ensure that holiday merchandise would be on the shelves or sitting in a warehouse ready to go,” according to National Retail Federation Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold.

“However, we are still hearing from retailers experiencing delays at West Coast ports, and retailers are also looking ahead to the spring season,” he said, commenting on the most recent Global Port Tracker report released today by the NRF.

“We believe it’s imperative for President Obama to encourage the parties to seek the help of a federal mediator to resolve the ongoing contract negotiations so serious solutions to address the ongoing issues can be discussed and the uncertainty that has plagued our nation’s busiest ports for months can finally be brought to an end.”

A major transpacific shipping alliance – the G6 – has reacted to the congestion problem by suspending eastbound calls at the Port of Los Angeles for the next four sailings of its Asia-U.S. West Coast service, due to “ongoing congestion.”

The G6 is comprised of APL, Hapag-Lloyd, Hyundai Merchant Marine, MOL, NYK Line and OOCL.
It’s also been reported that G6 will skip other calls at APL’s Global Gateway South terminal in Los Angeles in order to “remain fluid,” according to an APL customer advisory.

Carriers calling Los Angeles and other U.S. West Coast ports have been significantly impacted by chronic backlogs that have plagued the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex over the past few months.

The congestion in Southern California is due to a combination of chronic issues plaguing both Los Angeles and the neighboring Port of Long Beach that include a shortage of the chassis need to move containers in and out of the ports; unrest amongst truckers required to meet what they feel are increasingly burdensome environmental regulations; and labor negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) that have dragged on for months with, some feel, no end in sight.

The contract between the PMA and the ILWU expired on July 1, prompting ongoing concerns about the potential shift of cargo to ports on the U.S. East Coast.

The NRF report was researched by business consultancy Hackett Associates.

According to Hackett Associates President Ben Hackett, “The question is whether cargo currently being diverted to the East Coast will shift back to the West Coast once congestion in Los Angeles/Long Beach ends or are we experiencing a longer-term shift?” Hackett said. “Time will tell.”


Long Beach Tackles Chronic Port Congestion

Long Beach, CA – Responding to the chronic congestion snarling the movement of cargo containers through one of the country’s busiest ports, the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners has approved the use of port property as a temporary site for the storage of empty containers.

The “Temporary Empty Container Depot” will be operated on 30 acres of a vacant, undeveloped area on Pier S on Terminal Island in a move to “help to free up needed equipment to move cargo out of shipping terminals faster” and “put back into circulation more chassis,” the wheeled trailer-frames that trucks use to haul containers.

Truckers using the new will be able to deliver empty containers and remove them from a chassis, and then use the chassis to pick up and haul loaded containers to nearby intermodal rail facilities or their regional destinations.

The depot will be operated by a private company, Pasha Stevedoring and Terminals, under a permit that will expire at the end of March 2015.

Designation of the new depot is reportedly one of several measures the port is pursuing to relieve the congestion issues that have come with a surge of cargo in the last two months caused by the busy peak shipping season, the advent of larger ships and a change in the ownership system for chassis fleets.

In addition to the depot, the port has reportedly crafting a plan to operate its own chassis fleet for peak cargo shipping seasons and facilitate the introduction by private chassis fleets of an additional 3,000 chassis into the local equipment pool.

“We hear our customers loud and clear,” said Doug Drummond, president of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. “This congestion is not acceptable, and the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners is ensuring that the Port of Long Beach is doing everything it can to see that we clear up these issues now and forever.”



White House Engagement Urged in Port Dispute

Los Angeles, CA – Led by the National Retail Federation, a diverse coalition including retailers, manufacturers and farmers and other supply chain stakeholders has addressed a letter to the White House urging the government’s immediate involvement in the on-going contract negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

Port terminal management represented by the PMA and the leadership of the ILWU have held talks since May, but have yet to approve a final agreement on a contract that expired in July, which covers dockworkers at 29 U.S. West Coast ports from Seattle to San Diego.

While the two parties have said they would remain at the negotiating table until a new deal is struck, recent labor activities – most recently at the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma – “have led to a noticeable uptick in rhetoric and tensions that is causing the nation’s importers and exporters anxiety and alarm,” the letter said.

“The sudden change in tone is alarming and suggests that a full shutdown of every West Coast port may be imminent,” it read. “The impact this would have on jobs, down-stream consumers, and the business operations of exporters, importers, retailers, transportation providers, manufacturers, and other stakeholders would be catastrophic.”

The coalition detailed what it asserts would be the impact of a port shutdown, including damaging the viability of the West Coast ports and the economic consequences of disrupting the supply chain.

The group called on the Obama Administration “to become engaged in the contract negotiations before a disruption can occur,” and recommended the use of a federal mediator to forestall any threat of a management-directed lockout or labor-initiated strike.

“We believe immediate action is necessary and the federal government’s use of all of its available options would be helpful in heading off a shutdown and keeping the parties at the negotiating table,” the letter said.

The NRF and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) issued an economic analysis in June that found a port shutdown would cost the U.S. economy approximately $2 billion a day.

The NRF-NAM analysis estimated that a 5-day stoppage at ports on the U.S. West Coast would reduce U.S. GDP by $1.9 billion a day. This would increase exponentially with a 20-day stoppage resulting in a loss of $2.5 billion a day.

The last prolonged port shutdown of the ports was the 10-day lockout in 2002 which took months to recover from and cost the U.S. economy close to an estimated $1 billion a day.