Supply chain problems from ships to shelves, by the numbers

Port of Los Angeles
(Image credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

"The pandemic is haunting the global supply chain and, by extension, shoppers," two months before what's expected to be a big holiday shopping season, The Washington Post reports. Container ships are clogging ports, shipping costs are rising, and there's a dearth of truck drivers and warehouse workers.

So things may get a little rough for shoppers, retailers, and the chain of companies that move goods from factories to ships to shelves, but there are big winners, too. Here's a look at some illustrative numbers:

  • 36 percent — share of U.S. imports that pass through the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex
  • 75 — number of container ships waiting outside the Port of Los Angeles on Thursday, according to Time's Alana Semuels
  • 40 — number of container ships waiting off California ports Sept. 1
  • $20,586 — median cost of shipping a standard container from China to the U.S. West Coast in September, twice the cost in July and four times the cost in January, according to the Freightos index
  • 10.8 million — record number of containers the Port of Los Angeles expects to handle in 2021
  • $23 billion — profits booked by the 7 largest publicly traded ocean carriers in the first half of 2021, up from $1 billion a year earlier
  • 14th — World Bank ranking for U.S. on moving goods efficiently in 2018, out of 160 countries
  • 0 - 50 — number of trucks arriving to pick up containers during overnight shifts at Long Beach, despite 24/7 openings, according to freight logistics firm Flexport
  • 90 percent — turnover rate at some trucking companies in the last quarter of 2020
  • 25 miles — length freight trains were backed up trying to enter Union Pacific's enormous Global 4 shipping facility in Joliet, Illinois, over the summer
  • 500 — number of football fields that would fit in the Global 4 facility
  • 17 – days it takes for a container chassis to leave that Union Pacific facility and return for another container, up from normal 3.5 days
  • 31,000 — employees on Union Pacific's payroll, more than a third fewer than 2015
  • 1 million — toys from Amazon's holiday list sold by Oct. 13, nine weeks before Christmas
  • $1.3 trillion — projected 2021 U.S. holiday retail sales, up 7-9 percent from 2020, according to Deloitte
  • $785 — amount the average consumer is projected to spend on the 2021 holiday season, according to NPD

Sources: The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Time

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.