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President Biden’s cunning plan to clear congestion from the nation’s top ports failed at the end of 2021 and continues to underwhelm in the new year. 

New data from Bloomberg shows a rare bottleneck has materialized at the New York area’s port terminals, the busiest on the East Coast, due to labor shortage fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We have seen a spike in the number of labor going out into quarantine,” Port Authority Director Sam Ruda said. The average wait time for a container ship is about 4.75 days in the final week of 2021, compared with an average of 1.6 days for the entire year. 

The developing backlog is a labor issue as port workers stay home due to the rapid spread of the Omicron virus. 

Running at full capacity since the virus pandemic began in early 2020, the port handled 27% more cargo in November 2021 than it did in November 2019. So any disruption to labor has made it susceptible to a backlog. 

“We’ve essentially had five years of cargo growth in the space of 18, 20 months or so,” he said.

Ruda said the number of vessels sitting off port was approximately 12 to 13 to start the new year and down to 9 this past Wednesday. By Friday, ships at anchor increased to 11. 

“On an order of magnitude, it does seem quite small, but it does have our attention,” he said.

Meanwhile, at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, on the West Coast, responsible for 40% of all shipping containers entering the U.S., congestion is at a record high of three weeks. 

President Biden’s plan to alleviate port congestion is not working. Vessels are avoiding the mess on the West Coast and are opting for other less crowded ports. The shipping crisis continues to spread. 

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