With supply chain problems impacting all sorts of businesses, NBC10 Boston took a rare inside look at the operations at the Port of Boston.
"It's unprecedented," said Mike Meyran, the port's director.
The backlog at the Conley Terminal at the Port of Boston is unlike anything Meyran has ever seen.
"The magnitude of it, and then the duration," he said. "We're going into a year of the supply chain being extremely disrupted. The longer it goes, the longer it will take to dig out of it."
Containers arrive every week full of consumer products, furniture, footwear and even wine and spirits — goods that are purchased every single day.
The problem is that there haven't been enough container ship deliveries over the last year, leading to a ripple effect.
"Ships this fall were averaging 30 days behind on a 30-day schedule," Meyran said. "Shippers have seen delays. Shipping companies have been doing what they can to cope with this and build velocity in the supply chain."
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Meyran said there are nine ships in rotation that make eight stops between Asia and the East Coast.
"If one or two or three of those become impacted, and they have, it really slows the system down tremendously," he said.
The numbers tell part of the story. In 2019, there were more than 300,000 containers in and out of the port; there were 268,000 in 2020. And in 2021, when most of the economy opened back up, that dropped to just shy of 248,000. Meyran said holiday items were still trickling in by mid-December, which is not normal.
"That product is coming in in August, September, and tapers off in November, so everything is sort of on the shelves for peak holiday shopping season, but that's not the case," he added.
But there is help on the way in the form of some massive cranes which became operational in October. They will be able to accommodate larger ships that can carry double the cargo. The first of these ships arrives in January.
"Those big ships will bring more space on those ships, and they'll help the 2,500 businesses in New England that use the Port of Boston to service their business," said Meyran.