Ship part

Stuck in port for 54 days: How ship delays hurt small businesses

At the end of August, a small container ship called A Kinka left Hong Kong with, among other things, 50-inch Roku TVs, aluminum cookware and Fender guitars, as well as around 26,000 sets of backgammon and backgammon. chess intended for a small toy company in California.

It arrived off the coast of Los Angeles on September 12, according to maritime tracking data, encountering a traffic jam of dozens of ships. It floated in the Pacific Ocean for 54 days before finally having the chance to unload its cargo.

Gregg Prendergast, Pan-American president of Taiwanese electronics maker Acer Inc.,

drove into the ports to see for himself. Acer was waiting for computer screens on the A Kinka. “I can see the ships on the horizon,” he said. “It’s an armada.”

The A Kinka and all in it was stuck in a global supply chain tangle that upset businesses and consumers, exacerbated inflation, and delayed the delivery of hot tubs, vans and bourbon.

More than 100 companies needed freight on the 574-foot-long ship, including giants like Inc. But for small businesses that were only waiting for one or two containers, the delays took a toll , leaving some with unhappy customers and serious financial difficulties. A small business had Halloween boots that missed Halloween. Another could not be paid for $ 250,000 of lighting fixtures he had sold until they were delivered.

The A Kinka was one of dozens of ships backed up at Los Angeles and Long Beach ports this fall as companies rushed to import goods ahead of the holiday season. He waited longer than most, but he was not alone.

Graphic showing the icons of ships organized in two columns: the first column showing 73 ships waiting and the second column showing 27 ships moored

On September 19, there were 100 container ships in the port, one of the busiest days of the year. There were 73 ships wait unload when 27 ships were moored for unloading and loading, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California.

Graphic showing the icons of ships organized in three columns: first column showing 18 ships that waited less than a week, second column showing 69 ships that waited one to three weeks, and third column showing 13 ships that waited more than three weeks

Some of the bigger container ships were waiting less than a week from the moment they entered the harbor until they reached a quay. Thirteen mostly smaller ships waited more than three weeks, with the A Kinka stuck for almost eight weeks, the longest of those who did not have mechanical problems.

Graphic showing the icons of ships organized in two columns: first column showing 57 ships with Amazon containers and second column showing the other 43 ships

Large companies are better able to avoid supply chain delays because they have more resources. Amazon had containers on more than half of the 100 ships backed up at the port.

Sources: MarineTraffic, Marine Exchange of Southern California (port time); Vessel Finder (vessel dimensions)

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach say they have handled an increase in imports this year and have recently taken steps to reduce the backlog, including moving to 24/7 operations. The Journal was unable to reach the owner of A Kinka.

Of at least 100 companies that had cargo on the A Kinka, most had cargo on other ships in the port on September 19, according to customs data from trade document compiler Import Genius. About 30 had items exclusively on the ship, including small businesses like toy maker John N. Hansen Co. and lighting company Abra Lighting Corp.

Here’s a look at what was on board the A Kinka, categorized by a standardized measurement of cargo called a 20-foot equivalent unit, or TEU.




Note: Containers vary in size, but one container is usually about two TEUs, or 20ft equivalent units.

Source: WSJ analysis of Panjiva data (cargo content and owners)




Note: Containers vary in size, but one container is usually about two TEUs, or 20ft equivalent units.

Source: WSJ analysis of Panjiva data (cargo content and owners)





Note: Containers vary in size, but one container is usually about two TEUs, or 20ft equivalent units.

Source: WSJ analysis of Panjiva data (cargo content and owners)

Some small businesses have paid record freight rates to secure room for just a few containers, but delivery has been stalled for weeks at the port. Here’s what the delay meant for three companies with freight on board.

John N. Hansen Co., a toy maker and distributor based in Petaluma, Calif., Had two containers on board. One contained around 26,000 chess and backgammon sets intended for small toy and game stores. Mini-slot machines and other hand-held games ordered by casinos filled the rest.

“Mum-and-pop stores are going to pay the price,” said John Hansen III, president of the 16-person company. “A lot of the big guys knew this was coming and secured the goods as soon as possible. ”

Games on the A Kinka are expected to have reached retailers by September. Hansen paid about $ 27,000 to ship each container, about 10 times the price a year earlier, he said.

Hansen has raised prices twice this year, for a total of 10%, but the additional revenue is not enough to cover the rising costs.

Hansen finally received the chess and backgammon sets at the end of November, but in early December the container filled with the items ordered by the casinos was still stuck in a closed area, resulting in additional charges. “It is too late now for this year,” said Hansen.

Halloween came and went and customers at Youth Rise Up, based in Chino, Calif., Were always waiting for their festive Dune Jack O ‘Lantern boots to show up. About 400 pairs of the $ 140 boots did not reach the YRU warehouse until November 20.

“This is the first time in 30 years in footwear that we have experienced something like this,” said owner Ernie Nuñez. In addition to Halloween boots, A Kinka was carrying 7,355 pairs of the company’s shoes.

YRU, which has a dozen employees and specializes in festival shoes, had exhausted its current stock while waiting more than three months for new items to arrive.

Hundreds of customers canceled their Halloween boot orders, but YRU was able to resell the boots for a full price. “Thank goodness a lot of our customers are celebrating all year round,” said Mr. Nuñez.

When the goods of Abra Lighting Corp. were trapped on the A Kinka, the ripple effects were felt in places like Park City, Utah. This is where the Pendry Park City Hotel, scheduled to open in January, awaited bespoke LED lighting for its reception.

“We cannot substitute them for another product,” said Abra owner Barry Kirstein. A spokeswoman for Pendry declined to comment.

The prolonged delays have put financial pressure on the five-person company in Chino, Calif., Which prepays for the goods inside the container, along with tariffs and shipping charges, but does not collect revenue from the container. from customers to delivery.

“Instead of the normal 30 days, it will be at least five or six months from the date the container is loaded in China,” Kirstein said. “Delays in shipments force us to look for lines of credit because we cannot continue like this. ”

On November 8, the A Kinka left the wharf after unloading its long delayed cargo. There were 77 container ships waiting for a place. As of December 6, 94 container ships were waiting around the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

—Kara Dapena and Juanje Gomez contributed to this article.

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