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Fact Check-No evidence cargo supply-chain issues have been deliberately orchestrated by U.S. government

There is no evidence that cargo supply-chain issues have been “orchestrated” by the U.S. government, despite claims made online.

One widely shared screenshot of a tweet reads: “Manufactured crisis. This is a map of cargo ships currently incoming and holding pattern offshore. Your country is under attack from the inside” ( here ), ( here ), ( here ), ( here ), ( here ) and ( here ).

Other posts have claimed that ships have “not been allowed to dock and unload” ( here ).

Another user posted on Facebook: “Why is this administration orchestrating more shortages?”

“The shipping industry has reportedly ground to a halt at some U. S. Ports Authorities in those states have prevented these ships from around the world from unloading their goods,” they added ( here ).

The Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach handle approximately 40% of all inbound containers for the entire United States ( here ). Both seaports are experiencing a spike in ships waiting to unload ( here ), ( wapo.st/3iD7QPk ).

Live updates of ship movements at the complex are viewable on the Marine Traffic website ( bit.ly/2Yqhqhj ).

The delays at ports have not been deliberately created, however, and instead have occurred following a myriad of pandemic-related issues and knock-on effects, experts told Reuters.

The situation at Californian ports, which are the “main entry point for goods coming from Asia into the US” is a result of “COVID-19-related delays, labor shortages and of course holiday buying shortages,” Georgios Hatzimanolis, media strategist at Marine Traffic told Reuters.

“This is definitely a supply chain issue. US ports need to become better equipped to handle the larger ships and increased traffic, they need better infrastructure and more manpower,” he added.

The interconnectedness of modern supply chains means that disruptions can create a spiral of failure, Richard Wilding, Professor and Chair of Supply Chain Strategy at Cranfield School of Management, told Reuters.

“For example, lack of heavy goods vehicle drivers can result in ports becoming congested as containers build up within the ports as they are not shipped inland,” Wilding said.

“Full container movements then become prioritized to move products to customer, meaning empty containers are not returned to port and ultimately areas of the world where manufacturing is undertaken, so products may have been made but cannot be shipped, which then results in a shortage of containers to move product, which results in further shortages of product,” he added.

“Like a tsunami, the sea of demand dropped during the depths of the pandemic but now the tsunami wave of demand has arrived, resulting in some of the highest demand for 80 years in many regions, overwhelming supply chains requiring resources greater than was experienced in pre-pandemic times in many markets,” Prof Wilding said.

There is no “singular cause” for the current supply chain disruption, Matthew Hockenberry, Assistant Professor of Media Industries at Fordham University, told Reuters.

“It is the result of the intersection of a large number of failures related to the global nature of supply chains occurring simultaneously, with the most immediate factor being lingering and emerging impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“Given the trade relationship between the U.S. and China, and our reliance on cargo shipping for various goods from there—there are certainly unique factors specific to the United States. But there are worldwide disruptions across the supply chain as a result of labor impact, infrastructure, natural disasters, and circumstances related to global climate change,” he added.

“While one might be interested in questioning specific short-term responses by the current administration, or in developing better long-term trade and manufacturing strategies to reduce future impact, there is simply no evidence to support any claim of intentional governmental disruption at a national or (despite the more complex local labor politics) local level. It is the opposite—port authorities are trying to find solutions to these problems as quickly as possible. It is simply that so many complex systems are impacted that there are no ‘quick fixes,’” he said.

Numerous U.S. retailers have already begun promoting holiday gifts amid the supply-chain disruption ( bit.ly/2Yqhqhj )

Global supply-chain issues could still worsen in the months ahead, keeping inflation elevated, the world's top central bankers warned on Sept. 29 ( here ).

The chairman of DP World, a Dubai-based cargo logistics company, said that he sees no quick end to global shipping disruptions ( here ).

VERDICT

Missing context. There is no evidence that the U.S. government has orchestrated supply-chain issues at U.S. ports. The delays at ports are a result of an intersection of issues, such as labor shortages and pandemic-related impacts, experts told Reuters.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

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