Harvest Moon

For anyone doubting our long-abused just-in-time model employed for shipping has finally run aground there’s fresh evidence at hand.

Freight rates on key global trade routes are currently about seven times higher than they were just over a year ago as the simultaneous destabilisation of almost every part of the supply chain leaves stevedores, impaired by lack of spare capacity, struggling to cope.

These are the findings of a recent ACCC Container Stevedoring Report, in which it outlines how numerous port operations temporarily shut down in response to outbreaks of coronavirus strains and surges in demand for containerised cargo caused by the ensuing delays have had a cascading effect across the globe.

Only ten per cent of vessels arrived in their designated berth windows in 2020-21 — the lowest rate on record for local ports.

Idle hours for ships at Port Botany increased from 11.9 hours pre-pandemic to 21.2 hours in 2020-21.

At the Port of Los Angeles, as many as 70 vessels bringing in 500,000 containers have been waiting, sometimes for as long as three weeks, to unload their cargo.

The supply chain disaster has also revealed the existence of crippling economic dependence, particularly on China, in high-income countries according to renowned geopolitical commentator Joel Kotkin.

“A generation of politicians, economists, and pundits, particularly in Anglo-Saxon countries like Australia,” observes Kotkin, “have paid little attention to nurturing the ‘industrial commons,’ which encompass production, research and development, supply chains, embedded process development, and engineering capacity.”

Delays on semi-conductors and other tech componentry, all of which could be produced domestically, have led to high-volume vehicles in Australia like the Toyota Landcruiser and Ford Ranger currently selling 60 per cent higher than they were 12 months ago.

In the US, inflation has contributed to a 45.2 per cent year-on-year increase in the price of used cars and trucks.

The bottleneck crisis at the Port of Los Angeles has been created by a host of factors, the origins of which are mostly damning for government.

Carriers domiciled in California with trucks older than 2011 or with engine technology manufactured before 2010 as of last year were required to meet new truck and bus emission regulations.

It has eliminated many owner-drivers and nearly half of the established fleets that move containers across the nation.

This, along with chassis shortages, is only half the problem.

The other major factor in the crisis is container yard space or lack of it. Terminals are simply overflowing.

Long Beach zoning codes restrict stacking containers more than two high.

If nothing can go out then nothing can come in.

Old trucks restricted from entering the port to retrieve containers, also lengthens the time container ships idle offshore.

A container ship emits the same pollution of 50 million cars.

Now add up how many harmful emissions 70 of these idling ships produce compared to a ten-year old truck.

Or a thousand of them. It’s not even close.

Essential workers in the US and Australia, who were celebrated for being on the frontlines of a global pandemic last year have lost their jobs for refusing to be coerced with mandates for a provisionally approved, loosely described medical treatment that has yet to pass a single legislative body.

Not one. Administrative fiat, alarmingly, now replaces government by consent.

It was President Dwight Eisenhower who, having seen the writing on the wall, warned that “public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite” given that a “government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.”

The floodwaters continue to rise.

But there’s a glimmer of hope.

In a reversal of fortune, a New Jersey state Senate President just lost his re-election race to a truck driver who spent $153 on his campaign.

Merry Christmas.