By Daniel Yergin and Peter Tirschwell
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Last week, President Biden assumed the unofficial title of supply-chain manager in chief. He proposed a “90-day sprint” to try to untangle the gigantic snags in global trade that, as of Thursday, had forced 79 container ships to anchor off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, an all-time record. With no berths available, they were unable to unload cargo with a combined value of almost $8 billion, according to industry sources and our organization’s proprietary data.
Biden’s fixes are limited. The Great Supply Chain Disruption has been more than a year in the making (last October the first three container ships idled off the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex), and the supply chain mess will almost certainly continue deep into 2022.
The president’s alarm is justified. Supply chain woes are snarling the U.S. economy and stoking inflation. Factories are temporarily shutting down, manufacturers delaying deliveries, agricultural exporters losing overseas markets, retailers struggling with empty shelves and consumers worrying whether orders will arrive by Christmas.
The Biden administration brokered a deal to have the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex — the nation’s largest — operate around the clock, rather than its usual 16-hour days, and obtained agreements from some major importers to pick up containers in the middle of the night.
That’s a move in the right direction, but it’s a small step: The initial agreement with shippers covers less than 5 percent of the containers moving through the complex….
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