Port congestion coming? It’s up to you.

According to container lines and forwarders, it is time to pick up your containers at the port. They are beginning to pile up. It isn’t that ports want to be uncooperative, but imports not being picked up will eventually create a logjam of containers.

Okay, I get it, manufacturers and retailers not considered essential wish to delay deliveries to distribution centers already near capacity. One way to do this is to leave containers at or near the port. The bad news is the terminals will run out of real estate to store all the containers.

Moreover, wrong or right, the word is China wishes to go back as close to business as usual as they can. China wants to make stuff and sell the stuff to us. It’s what they do. The problem with the plan is most of us are under consuming at the moment (other than adult beverages and toilet paper). Chinese manufacturers may offer hard to refuse deals, at least on the short term, to spark orders and reignite their production lines. We Americans do love a good deal. The likely result, despite a slow economy, could be a bottleneck of cargo at ports that will add to the considerable misery many already face. In a logjam of containers, the logjam can’t differentiate between containers we want and need and containers we don’t. All the containers stop effectively stopping the supply chain, which can’t happen.

One way to prevent the potential mega congestion is for manufacturers, retailers, and other importers, to pick up their containers already at the port. Why? As mentioned, it will help the supply chain. Another reason is it must happen sooner or later anyway, and chances are overall conditions won’t be much different then than now. Lastly, better now than later, when there is no inland warehouse space to be had. There is no pain like having to move cargo inland when there is no affordable warehouse space to put it. At that point, you are negotiating the purchase of fire extinguishers when the house is already on fire. Getting inventory safely tucked away in a warehouse now will not only help the supply chain, but it will help the cargo owners as well.

Yes, now would be the time while there is space still left. One of my regular pre-pandemic lunch buddies here in Jacksonville is Ike Sherlock, Total Distribution, Inc. Our friendly lunch has reverted to a friendly telephone call. Total Distribution Inc. operates a good number of warehouses east of the Mississippi as far north as Michigan. In our last call, Ike told me most warehouse companies have some space still available. My forecast is once the logjam starts to move, that capacity won’t be around for long.