Containing It | Urban Living
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Containing It

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I'm not an expert when it comes to shipping products around the world. Stuff I need gets magically stocked on store shelves or available on a website. Frankly, talking about containers doesn't float my retail boat. Yet, we're getting plenty of news these days about Utah's desire to establish an "inland port" west of the new prison and of the new airport.

What does an inland port do? It's a stop for containers to be loaded and unloaded, where items can be shipped off again to thousands of destinations after being repackaged into lots. In theory, it makes Utah a very cost-effective global trade port that allows for Customs to open and inspect the containers before the inventory moves elsewhere. Proponents here, like Derek Miller, who heads up the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance while also serving on the Utah Inland Port Authority board of directors, sees Salt Lake as a hub for international business. To my pea brain, making Salt Lake a dry port seems silly since the ports along the coast do the same things.

Ah, but talking to my friends who own small businesses and who try to get goods these days casts a different light on the subject. Apparently, container-ship congestion at all North American ports is crazy right now. Visit the Marine Traffic website (marinetraffic.com) and you'll see the massive shipping traffic in real time around the world. Look to West Coasts ports like San Diego, Los Angeles/Long Beach and Oakland, and you can view the bottlenecks for yourself. When I checked, I saw at least 30 ships waiting to unload in the LA/Long Beach harbor.

According to the website Expeditiors.com, this situation is being driven by the "unprecedented surge in demand" and "vessels are experiencing severe delays for berth windows once they arrive at the terminal for discharge." The lack of laborers, warehouses, delivery trucks and rail cars—not to mention effects of COVID closures in California over the past year—are stressing out the system. The Journal of Commerce writes that they see no relief in sight, especially for LA-Long Beach congestion but predicts that there will be "double-digit trans-Pacific volume growth projected through the first half of the year and at ports around the world."

Locally, I don't know how our proposed inland port can help if you can't get the damned containers off ships. While we sit at home during COVID-time, we're browsing the web and ordering too much stuff—which explains some delays in packages. My friends in retail can't stock their shelves like they used to, and worse, my friends in the building trades are seeing massive shortages in tile, carpet, lumber, steel products and more.

Even the cost of old containers to use for tiny homes has gone up—that is, if you can find one.