Driving over the iconic Vincent Thomas bridge in the seaside town of San Pedro, California affords a magnificent view of the busy commerce that makes up both the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports. What might become a particular point of interest are the huge cargo ships idling just outside of the port entrance, waiting to unload their heavy cargo. This California port has not seen this level of overcrowding since 2004 and it is perhaps a glaring sign of America’s obsession with imported goods and the excessive consumption of far too many things.
The Port of L.A. has seen phenomenal growth in just the last decade alone. Unfortunately, the size of the port has not grown to keep up with the larger sized cargo ships that can now hold almost double the goods they did just a few years ago. With the busiest shopping season of the year swiftly approaching, retailers are biting their nails in concern over stocking store shelves in time for the holiday rush of consumers. As if the overflowing store rooms do not hold enough merchandise, retailers are becoming desperate to obtain the goods that are idling in the Pacific Ocean, waiting to be unloaded from the dizzying number of shipping containers weighing down the waiting ships.
The bottleneck has officials scrambling to figure out ways to move the imports quickly and efficiently while retaining the business of retail merchants. The problem seems to be a combination of issues ranging from not enough trucks and drivers to a need for more storage space and goods handlers. Executive Director Gene Seroka is tasked with the daunting job of working out the logistics between shippers, truckers and retailers. There is an obvious lack of key connections between these entities that is greatly affecting the way in which this seafaring industry moves along. As of now, there is a 7-10 day delay from ship to retailer and that is very troubling for all concerned.
Perhaps what needs to be considered in this dilemma is the over abundance of goods that are shipped to the US on a daily basis. Most stores of any variety usually have stock rooms that are already filled to capacity, yet buyers continue to place orders and consumers continue to buy more than they may practically need. An average home in America can easily be found with a collection of the same item or far too many items that are never used and often end up collecting dust in some musty attic, scary basement or cramped garage. Even the front and back yards of many homes are filled with purchased items that have become nothing more than junky eyesores. The overcrowding at the port of L.A. is a sure sign that Americans have gone overboard in their excessive need to buy, buy, buy and to voraciously consume whatever is put on store shelves.
There is an insatiable and vicious cycle in the world of retail and that cycle is steadily eating away at the core of traditional values and common sense. There was a time when it was frowned upon to live above one’s means or to take and possess more than what was reasonably needed. The capitalistic reality that is life in America seems to be working against its citizens in the worst way imaginable. Before long, there will be more manufactured goods than there is space to hold it all and that possibility is manifesting in the problems facing many American ports, the issue of overcrowding with too many imported goods. It is no wonder that many other countries occasionally refer to citizens of the US as “Those greedy Americans.”
The Port of Los Angeles is responsible for about 40 percent of all imported goods and if it continues to be a problem to offload merchandise in a timely and cost effective manner, retailers have threatened to find alternative ways to obtain their shipments. Port authorities are desperate to not lose business and are faced with a logistical headache during its busiest season. Although it is unclear what exactly it will entail to begin slowing down the amount of imported goods, it is yet something that needs to be seriously considered. Having goods manufactured here in the states would create jobs and bring back that good feeling of seeing labels that read “Made in America.” The Port overcrowding is a sobering sign reflecting back to American consumers that it is high time to end the excessive consumption of unnecessary goods. Enough is enough and too much is just, well, too much.
Opinion by Mai Nowlin