An Unexpected Victory: Container Stacking at the Port of Long Beach

A miracle occurred this week. Everyone I have talked to about it, myself included, is shocked that it happened. It’s important to 

  1. Understand what happened.
  2. Make sure everyone knows it happened.
  3. Understand how and why it happened.
  4. Understand how we might cause it to happen again.
  5. Update our models and actions.
  6. Ideally make this a turning point to save civilization.

That last one is a bit of a stretch goal, but I am being fully serious. If you’re not terrified that the United States is a dead player, you haven’t been paying attention – the whole reason this is a miracle, and that it shocked so many people, is that we didn’t think the system was capable of noticing a stupid, massively destructive rule with no non-trivial benefits and no defenders and scrapping it, certainly not within a day. If your model did expect it, I’m very curious to know how that is possible, and how you explain the years 2020 and 2021.

Here’s my understanding of what happened. First, the setup.

  1. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach together are responsible for a huge percentage of shipping into the Western United States.
  2. There was a rule in the Port saying you could only stack shipping containers two containers high.
  3. This is despite the whole point of shipping containers being to stack them on top of each other so you can have a container ship.
  4. This rule was created, and I am not making this up, because it was decided that higher stacks were not sufficiently aesthetically pleasing.
  5. If you violated this rule, you lost your right to operate at the port.
  6. In normal times, this was annoying but not a huge deal.
  7. Thanks to Covid-19, there was increased demand to ship containers, creating more empty containers, and less throughput to remove those containers.
  8. Normally one would settle this by changing prices, but for various reasons we won’t get into price mechanisms aren’t working properly to fix supply shortages.
  9. Trucking companies started accumulating empty containers.
  10. The companies ran out of room to store the containers, because in many places they could only stack them in stacks of two, and there was no practical way to move the containers off-site.
  11. Trucks were forced to sit there with empty containers rather than hauling freight.
  12. This made all the problems worse, in a downward spiral, resulting in a standstill throughout the port.
  13. This was big enough to threaten the entire supply chain, and with it the economy, at least of the Western United States and potentially of the whole world via cascading problems. And similar problems are likely happening elsewhere.
  14. Everyone in the port, or at least a lot of them, knew this was happening.
  15. None of those people managed to do anything about the rule, or even get word out about the rule. No reporters wrote up news reports. No one was calling for a fix. The supply chain problems kept getting worse and mostly everyone agreed not to talk about it much and hope it would go away.

A bureaucrat insisting that stacked containers are an eyesore, causing freight to pile up because trucks are stuck sitting on empty containers, thus causing a cascading failure that destroys supply lines and brings down the economy. That certainly sounds like something that was in an early draft of Atlas Shrugged but got crossed out as too preposterous for anyone to take seriously. 

Then our hero enters, and decides to coordinate and plan a persuasion campaign to get the rule changed. Here’s how I think this went down.

  1. He in advance arranges for various sources to give him a signal boost when the time comes, in various ways.
  2. He designs the message for a format that will have maximum reach and be maximally persuasive.
  3. This takes the form of an easy to tell physical story, that he pretends to have only discovered now.
  4. Since all actual public discourse now takes place on Twitter, it takes the form of a Twitter thread, which I will reproduce here in full.

It’s long, but this is a super important Twitter thread, and I strongly recommend you read the whole thing, noting that I am confident Ryan Peterson knew a lot of this before he took the boat ride:

That initial tweet got 16k retweets and 33k likes, and even the others got thousands of likes as well, so this successfully got many people’s attention. It’s worth paying attention to the details here, as this was crafted in order to spread and be persuasive, and also not crafted to make people angry or to blame anyone. It’s a call to positive action. In particular, I notice these characteristics:

  1. Starts with a relatable physical story of a boat ride, and a friendly tone.
  2. Tells a (mostly manufactured) story that implies (without saying anything false) how the ride led him to figure these things out, which gives rhetorical cover to everyone else for not knowing about or talking about the problem. We can all decide to pretend this was discovered today.
  3. Then he invokes social consensus by saying that ‘everyone agrees‘ that the bottleneck is yard space. Which is true, as far as I can tell, everyone did agree on that. Which of course implies that everyone also knows there is a bottleneck, and that the port is backed up, and why this is happening. The hidden question of why no one is doing much about this is deflected by starting off pretending (to pretend?) that the boat ride uncovered the problem.
  4. Describes a clear physical problem that everyone can understand, in simple terms that everyone can understand but that don’t talk down to anyone. He makes this look easy. It is not easy, it is hard.
  5. Makes clear that the problem will only get worse on its own, not better, for reasons that are easy to understand.
  6. Makes clear the scope of the problem. Port of Long Beach effectively shuts down, we can’t ship stuff, potential global economic collapse. Not clear that it would be anything like that bad, but it could be.
  7. Gives a decision principle that’s simple, a good slogan and again can be understood by everyone, and that doesn’t have any obvious objections: Overwhelm the bottleneck.
  8. Gives a shovel-ready solution on how to begin to overwhelm the bottleneck, at zero cost, by allowing containers to stack more.
  9. Gives more shovel-ready solutions on top of that, so that (A) someone might go and do some of those as well, (B) someone can do the first easy thing and look like it’s some sort of compromise because they didn’t do the other things, (C) encourage others to come up with more ideas and have a conversation and actually physically think about the problem and (D) make it clear the focus is on finding solutions and solving problems, and not on which monkey gets the credit banana.
  10. Makes it clear solutions are non-rivalrous. We can do all of them, and should, but also do any one of them now.
  11. Gives a sense of urgency, and also a promise of things getting better right away. Not only can you act today, Sir, you are blameworthy tomorrow if you do not act, and you will see results and rewards tomorrow if you do act. Not only reactions to the announcements, physical results on the ground. That’s powerful stuff.
  12. Ends by noting that leadership is what is missing. You could be leadership and demonstrate you’re a good leader, or you can not do that and demonstrate the opposite. Whoever solves this is the leader.

The whole scenario is maximally designed to facilitate persuasion and action. Clear physical problem, clear physical solution, clear authority to implement it, no drawbacks, no losers, no cost, no associations with sensitive topics or unfortunate implications from any direction, it’s all good, you can simply do the thing and the thing is done and things are better, that’s it, no really, that’s it.

Despite this, again, no one I’ve talked to about this expected the problem to be fixed.

I didn’t see anyone posting something afterwards along the lines of ‘yes of course we lifted that restriction now that this has been pointed out.’ I certainly didn’t see anyone say ‘and of course now we should expect this to be fixed since it’s so obvious.’ I didn’t even see a sarcastic version of that. This is the most optimistic take I could find.

But this definitely happened. Presto.

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Thus, we have a long list here of reasons why this was unusually low hanging fruit, but all these known factors combined were not sufficient to create any predictions or expectations that it would work, even with hindsight. Everyone noticed they were confused.

Yes. Yes, we are.

Celebrate, good times, come on:

Image

Less than eight hours is mind-boggling efficiency. First the information has to be noticed and brought to the attention of the relevant authority, who then has to confirm that they have the authority to make the change, and do the whole Chesterson’s Fence investigation to figure out why the rule exists, and also confirm that the change is safe and write the new rule, and implement it. If you can do it much faster than this while being responsible about it, it less says that you’re super efficient and more raises once again the question of why it wasn’t done already.

 All right, we didn’t full-on ‘save the economy’ and a week after writing this there was still quite the logjam at the port, but it’s a start. Now what?

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The housing metaphor is obvious and correct and apt, and in terms of benefits it’s also very low hanging fruit, but the opposition is far stronger and better motivated, so it’s not obviously the best next target once we finish fixing shipping. Even further improving shipping with similar improvements, of which there are doubtless many available, would still be surprising. All the other stuff on Ryan’s list, or other ideas that could help expand shipping? I don’t see any signs of any of that moving forward.

Even this simple change wasn’t fully implemented. Los Angeles, despite the example from Long Beach, never implemented the change. And in Long Beach, yes they allowed more stacking at existing sites, but that doesn’t mean our problems are over…

The change helped a non-zero amount, but only in Long Beach, and now it’s on to the next bottleneck, the next place action is needed and isn’t happening.

A wild idea that I haven’t heard proposed, which won’t solve our short term problems but does seem like a good idea, is how about we create a new port? If I asked you exactly where not to try and hire a bunch of people and especially not to drive a truck away from efficiently, and also to not try to expand into more space and capacity for the future, in all the Western part of the land, I’m pretty sure that my two answers would have been Los Angeles and San Francisco. Not that they are bad places for ports, but they’re where all the people and high prices and land scarcity and traffic are right now. Having all our stuff start out in those places might not be the best move. And ideally doing things elsewhere would make various barriers easier to overcome, although I fear trying to build a new thing now even in a new place would be time and cost prohibitive. But at this stage there are no bad ideas.

The focus in the short term should clearly be, all right, we made some progress on the first bottleneck. Now we need to make more progress, such as by getting Los Angeles to make the change and get faster permitting of new lots. We also should look to find the next solution for the bottleneck, and for the next bottleneck. There are some concrete suggestions on that in Ryan’s thread, but I don’t see any attempts to get further traction along those lines. Which of course is fully expected, but we didn’t expect to get the first most important thing, so who knows what is possible?

Momentum now seems like it would be incredibly valuable. If people started thinking that we could change stupid rules and do physical things, there’s treasure everywhere, and the more that kind of thing happens the more we would get ambitious enough to try things and overturn restrictions that are less obvious and where we face more resistance. The best case scenario endgame here is to start acting like live players again, and that would be quite the win.

The first step is to get the word out. Shout it from the rooftops, as it were, that we as a nation did a thing, and a thing is a thing we can do, because One Man stood up and was heard. It’s big news. The people need to know.

And yet, the people do not know. I found a Washington Post article, and it is quite good, but it wasn’t easy for me to find. If you need to share one piece that explains what happens, this is very good for that, because it is a Proper Authority and tells the real story, including that the rule was there because stacks were considered too ugly. This is an example of how one is supposed to report such things.

The only other mainstream posts I could find on a search were this from Bloomberg and this one from CBS. These are the opposite, and almost read like a cover-up. They note that the stacking limit has been eased, but says nothing about how that came to be, or why the rule was there in the first place, or how big a deal this is. They don’t tell people the news that matters most.

It’s still better than actual nothing. When I ran searches elsewhere on particular sites, after trying a general search that didn’t find much either, I got nothing. CNN has this report about how the governor issued executive orders that didn’t do anything to help, but from what I could see nothing about the stacking restriction. Fox News has nothing. As an experiment I looked at New York Times and nothing came up. That doesn’t mean I know for sure that such sources had no coverage at all, but it does mean that when I went explicitly looking for such coverage, even with site-specific searches, I still could not find it from such sources. If you know of any other coverage, especially good coverage, please share it in the comments. Given how easy it was to miss the Washington Post article, I am hopeful that there is more that I have not found.

My going theory on why the news isn’t being shared is because it is being instinctively suppressed by the implicit forces that filter out such actions from the official narratives. The whole scenario might give people the idea that we could do things because they’re helpful. It gives status to someone for being helpful. It highlights our general failure to do helpful things, and plausibly blames all our supply chain (and also plausibly all our civilizational) problems on stupid pointless rules and a failure to do obviously correct things. That’s not a good look for power, and doesn’t help anyone’s narratives, so every step of the way such things get silenced. 

We need to not let this happen. People need to remember what happened here, at the Port of Long Beach.

To wrap up, my top model updates are:

  1. We are capable of actually acting fast and correctly when circumstances are right.
  2. Acting in a way that’s designed to work, and be persuasive, actually works.
  3. A single person can, under the right circumstances, cause such action.
  4. Another single person can, often, if sufficiently motivated, implement the change.
  5. The low hanging fruit is even lower hanging and more valuable than it looks, even after all previous adjustments for this.
  6. Even when such big news happens, it will be ignored, so it’s on us to spread the good word, and to find ways to do this again.

We do still have to check in all such cases, to see what was actually implemented and whether it worked. Otherwise we can’t update, and it will be too tempting to say you’re going to fix something and then do nothing.

Anyone have a good idea for a next target?

EDIT 11/12: This post has been updated to reflect new information about the extent of the impact of what happened. The section about how much the word got out has not been updated, however, as it reflects the situation at the time, despite news having gotten out somewhat more after the post was written.

If you want to continue reading my thoughts on this, I did a follow up post here.

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103 Responses to An Unexpected Victory: Container Stacking at the Port of Long Beach

  1. Pingback: Covid 10/28: An Unexpected Victory | Don't Worry About the Vase

  2. Stephen Hayes says:

    “That’s not a good look for power, and doesn’t help anyone’s narratives, so every step of the way such things get silenced.”
    This seems overly conspiratorial. Where exactly in the average reporter’s workflow is Power sitting that it can say “This is a bad look for me, you’re not going to write about it”? You just wrote about how thoroughly broken incentives are, then proposed that someone has actually gotten the incentives aligned perfectly so that every step of every process serves Power. That’s an impressive feat I’d like to hear the details of, I bet we could learn from it!

    • TheZvi says:

      I’m not thinking of anything explicit like that. It’s more that, at each step, everyone anticipates that at each future step there will be this pressure against such a thing, a looking for ways not to publish it, or to downplay it, or to bury it, that it will make everyone involved look like they’re not on the right team, etc etc. No one’s claiming perfect alignment. If this came off as too strong I could weaken it, but yes, I do think that at every step there’s work to silence such things.

      • Stephen Hayes says:

        I wasn’t kidding about learning from it. Perfect or not, you’re describing a world where incentives are significantly aligned with *something* as opposed to pure principle-agent problem chaos. When lamenting broken incentives, it seems like a set of functional ones permeating society is worthy of more examination.

      • Anonymous-backtick says:

        Well, yes. This is why the “conspiracies can’t exist because someone would blow the whistle” argument is dogshit.

      • joe live says:

        What you describe is called “self-censoring”.

      • alchemy29 says:

        Zvi, I’m really confused on what the great mystery is here that you’re trying to explain. You already pointed out that it already got written up and published in multiple mainstream sources, but it’s hard to find because few people clicked on it and few people cared*. That’s how search algorithms work. The question isn’t why the story isn’t getting written about, the question is why the general public just shrugged.

        And I think you almost answered it – it just doesn’t fit into any particular narrative. Not a narrative in the sense of a top down agenda that the “powers that be” promote, but a narrative in a sense of the way people think about the world.

        *Few people in the grand scheme of things that make it to the front page of MSNBC or Fox.

    • Dedicating Ruckus says:

      Often these “looks like a conspiracy but no actual conspiracy” outcomes are driven, not by an explicit alignment of incentives, but by the operation of a widely shared implicit worldview. It’s not about the mechanisms by which people make decisions, but about the people making the decisions. Personnel is policy, as they say.

      Thus, the original locus of this effect is probably found in the journalism schools; it is perpetuated by the culture at journalistic institutions; and the only way to get around it (or replicate it) is to create your own major talent pipeline (and attract people to it) that promotes the worldview you’d rather see.

      • Kellogg Booth says:

        Regarding journalism schools: I think journalism changed a lot after Watergate and not all of the changes were for the better. My sense is that since Watergate journalists have drifted to thinking that ‘investigative journalism’ means fighting the power structure and revealing active coverups. That is for sure part of it. But there are other stories where it is not the power structure that is causing the problem and there is no active conspiracy to cover things up — there is just a problem. I think those stories do not get nearly as much attention because finding out there is a bottleneck that is really there only for stupid reasons, not because someone chose to make it a bottleneck, will not lead to a Pulitzer Prize.

        There is a paraphrase of Occam’s Razor that applies here: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon%27s_razor

        National Lampoon has a great comic strip (short graphic novel in current parlance) after G. Gordon Liddy’s book Will came out. At one point in the (fictional) story Liddy breaks into the telephone company and hog ties the information operators so he can get Daniel Ellsberg’s address. This was poking fun at Liddy’s overly cloak-and-dagger approach to everything (rather than just dial 411 and get the information from an operator, he organized a Watergate-like break in). Ironically, this seems to be how journalists now see the world. Information is only valuable if you have to fight to get it and if you have to resort to heroic efforts to unearth it. Going to the library and looking it up doesn’t count as journalism any more.

    • Trent Rollow says:

      Well, Steve, we’re making all the wrong decisions with a vaccine that isn’t working properly but at the same time we’re threatening physicians with medical license forfeiture for prescribing existing and affordable medications. Perhaps this is a starting point for your quest for knowledge about how Power operates in our society.

      • Drew Kime says:

        The vaccine *is* working properly. In fact, all of the several vaccines are working properly. And the “existing and affordable medications” are actually existing and affordable and ineffective at treating the virus.

  3. Your model updates are spot on, and I had made those mental model adjustments at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic after convincing our province to close down bars, etc, ahead of St. Patricks Day in 2020.

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

  4. remizidae says:

    I’d understand this better with explanation of who the characters are. Who is Ryan Petersen, and why was he able to get this amount of attention? Some guy who is big on Twitter? Does he have particularly influential followers?

    Also, who made the decision to lift the restriction? Will this person be rewarded?

    • remizidae says:

      Also: “A bureaucrat insisting that stacked containers are an eyesore…” is not what happened. It’s not individual bureaucrats making decisions according to their personal preferences (if it were, it might be better, because you could go and convince the bureaucrats). It’s bureaucrats following the rules, and the fact that our system makes changing rules very difficult, cumbersome, and time-consuming.

    • kronopath says:

      According to his bio, Ryan is the CEO of Flexport, a supply chain company.

      https://www.flexport.com/

      73k followers on Twitter, which is a lot but not extremely huge.

    • He is the CEO of a tech startup that works on supply chain logistics and got a lot of credit for doing extremely fast, responsive work to move PPE into the US back when that was a problem in early Covid. He is possibly the exact right person to tweet about this.

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  6. J says:

    Glad to see this happen, and Ryan seems sharp. But the explanation doesn’t entirely make sense to me:
    – How do empty containers accumulate in the first place? I thought full containers get shipped out all over the US and then emptied at their destinations.
    – Don’t the empties get shipped back to China? If an empty leaves for every full container that arrives, how would we ever have a surplus of empties?
    – It sounds like full containers have been accumulating. But doesn’t that mean the problem is not having enough trucks? I’ve heard California passed laws screwing up the trucking industry recently, so that seems plausible.

    • TheZvi says:

      Empty containers aren’t all identical, so they need to be returned to the proper shipping company once the contents have been moved to another form, and the ability to deliver them where they needed to go was bottlenecked, which in turn was reducing truck capacity.

      Ideally they’re then shipped back to China, so they can be used again, yes. But that requires getting them where they need to go, and that requires unloading to create space, which in turn requires the trucks that were storing the empty containers to bring them back, so…

    • John Schilling says:

      In order for an empty container to be shipped back to China, it has to first be positioned at the port where a crane can load it on a ship. Simplistically speaking, the fully-bottlenecked state is:
      – Every legal container slot at the Port of Long Beach ./ Los Angeles is holding a full container awaiting delivery
      – Every legal container slot in any of the depots within practical driving distance of Long Beach / Los Angeles is holding an empty container
      – Every truck capable of hauling a container, has an empty container bureaucratically welded to its chassis because the truck is the last legal place for the container (theoretically “in transit”) can exist.

      I don’t think the blockage was ever complete; there were always a few trucks available to shuffle containers through the few empty slots that remained. But every movement, even “put that empty container on a ship to China to get it out of the way”, started looking like one of those sliding-tile puzzles.

    • Hammered_Glass says:

      That’s a curious situation and one I would like an explanation for as well. If you look at this animation comparing the a 24 hour period two years apart, it appears that the same number of ships docked in that time while considerably more ships arrived to post up outside the harbor waiting to dock. Why are there seemingly more ships arriving?

      • Mark Magagna says:

        Network congestion has non-linear failure modes.
        You can see this in any ordinary traffic jam – the traffic moves well but it’s heavy, then the traffic increases a little, everyone moves a little slower and suddenly the line to get on the highway starts to pile up and it snowballs.
        As for why the ships keep arriving? I think it’s because it takes a while for the ship to move across the ocean, so no one wants to keep the ship back in the origin port. If Long Beach is still jammed when it arrives, the company probably tries to arrange an alternative port.
        Also – if the ships stopped moving the politicians could shift the blame to the shipping companies.

  7. dmendels says:

    Great story, elegant and exciting. But don’t we need some evidence before we get this excited: did throughput at the port actually improve? Is there any data to confirm this was a top level bottleneck? Will you be able to report back in 1 or X weeks with a percentage improvement metric?

    I saw Biden exec order to run port 24/7 which sounded pretty smart too, but also have seen no follow up as to whether it made a difference.

    • cavemanreads says:

      The 24/7 change didn’t have much impact because it wasn’t really 24/7.

      https://lbpost.com/news/are-the-long-beach-and-los-angeles-ports-operating-24-7-as-biden-claimed-not-quite

      One terminal out of seven now operates 24 hours a day Monday through Thursday. If you read the official White House press release you’ll find the claim is that this is a first step towards 24/7 operation, which is true, but every article I saw when I googled makes it sound as if it’s happening now.

    • The 24/7 problem is personnel. It’s a union site, and any expectation of tripling personnel is unrealistic. The issue of workers’ overtime is also complicated by contracts and the willingness of shippers or receivers to pay the surcharge for that after they’ve charged customers for a lesser amount.

      The logistics system is very interconnected. One of the other issues is allowing non-union truck drivers into the Longshoreman’s yard/docks, as well as CA regulations prohibiting all but the most fuel-efficient vehicles into the state. Peterson’s workaround is the 500-acre site to avoid conflict with union policy, and be far enough away from the coastal belt to open the possibility of trucks from the other lower-47 to carry the containers.

  8. Thomas Sattolo says:

    Are the supply chain issues gone already? Presumably this’ll help, but if the problem isn’t really fixed yet then this isn’t that big a story.

  9. bean says:

    I do not think this is as big of a victory as it looks, or even anything other than pushing the bottleneck down the road slightly. First, it’s worth pointing out that the Port of Long Beach is separate from the Port of Los Angeles, and the Port of LA doesn’t seem to have had this restriction to begin with. (I checked an old photo I had laying around, and saw taller stacks.) Oh, and the Port of LA handles slightly more container traffic in normal circumstances than Long Beach. So I don’t think letting the stacks get higher is a panacea, particularly because this does nothing to address the reason we ended up with a problem in the first place (not sending containers back to China). If that isn’t addressed, people will just dump empty containers at Long Beach until the extra space fills up, and then we’re back where we were last week. I do not know why this was a problem to begin with, as while I have many hours in the Port of LA and feel very fondly towards it, none of that time was spent learning about port operations.

    I also don’t think building a new port is nearly as easy as it seems. The key feature of a port is shelter, and there are really only three naturally-occurring locations on the West Coast that provide good harbors: Puget Sound, San Francisco and San Diego. LA’s port is protected by an artificial breakwater. Portland gets an honorable mention, but the mouth of the Columbia is nasty, and not a good place for ships. Humbolt Bay is, I believe, next on the list, and it’s not that big, either. So if you want a new port, you’re committing to huge investment not only in cranes and docks, but also in breakwaters, dredging, and so on. I don’t have numbers to hand, but there’s a reason that ports tend to be near major cities, and it’s the same reason that those major cities were there in the first place.

    • myst_05 says:

      Puget Sound is huge though and could house a couple more ports or see an expansion of the existing ones. If you use eminent domain you could clear out the land at a reasonable cost and get to building a new port.

      • bean says:

        While that’s a reasonable point, I suspect there are still going to be a lot of issues. Even if we pretend that there are no environmental issues, there’s a lot of mountains around there, and much of what isn’t mountains is already city. From what I can see, virtually all of what isn’t mountains or city has mountains or city between it and the main transport lines, and containers that are ashore but not going anywhere else are rather pointless.

      • myst_05 says:

        From looking at satellite photos there’s still a lot of space around Ketron island, Tulalip reservation, Chuckanut and Lummi reservation. You’d have to pay off the land owners and go through a lot of political pushback but engineering wise its not impossible. I imagine actually doing this would involve the National Guard being called in to protect the construction site from protestors but that’s a political challenge, not an engineering challenge.

    • Basil Marte says:

      AFAIK during Project Plowshare “building” a new harbor on the West Coast was one of the major use cases they thought about.

    • alchemy29 says:

      This is exactly the comment I was looking for. I’ve noticed often that certain types of stories get circulated by economists, pundits, rationalist bloggers etc. The general format is an easy to understand, just-so story about some problem in the world with a clear moral – but then someone with domain expertise comes in and points out “Well sorta, but it’s way more complicated than that”. And so I get a little wary whenever I read a just so story that seems a little too perfect, too neat.

      Which is not to say that stacking containers is bad, it’s great. But the it’s getting wrapped up in what seems like a slightly exaggerated narrative.

  10. Brian Slesinsky says:

    That’s not a real Washington Post article (written by one of its journalists). It’s a Bloomberg opinion piece that the Post republished on its website.

    Also, it doesn’t look like the author made any phone calls to learn anything. You can find the quotes on Twitter. It. seems they’re just reading social media like the rest of us.

  11. Emily Bragg says:

    In terms of the “split spacial dependence of customs (and thus all parts of the process after customs, including trucking bottlenecks) from the physical port location, you may find Georgia’s “inland ports” interesting. Basically, ship hits savannah, cargo goes on secured train to part of the state (in this case Dalton, since they had excess labor from carpet manufacturing being more automated), cargo goes through customs and is dispersed from there instead of being yet another big rig on I16. It’s one of the more innovative things I’ve seen going on in the past few years for that kind of industry!

    • Hal Green says:

      Ditto South Carolina. Their rail link is from the Wando Terminal near Charleston to the inland port at Greer SC, between Spartanburg and Greenville. Works well, and relieves traffic on I26.

  12. Aaron Sechrist says:

    The stacking rule does not apply to the port, but to trucking yards inland. By allowing high stacks of empties, it frees up chassis to deliver more full containers. The empties still need to get back to port and back on the ships, but this adds some capacity for chassis and that is vital.

    • ianargent says:

      And, as I found out by looking at the “3D imagery” on Google Maps (and making an assumption about the age of the imagery, admittedly), the Port of Long Beach HAD stacks up to 5 high of containers. The tweets don’t make it very clear, but it was the off-port truck yards (my *guess* is the where the containers/contents are unloaded and re-arranged for delivery to the next-hop warehouse; because the tweets talk about containers that are empty but cannot be returned to the port because $REASONS$) where the empties would be piling up, except they couldn’t be piled up, so they take up chassis instead.

  13. Daniel Tilkin says:

    For those who are interested in supply chain issues, Bloomberg’s “Odd Lots” podcast has had a number of interesting episodes on the topic recently. They’ve had Ryan Petersen on a couple of times, including an episode which aired a couple of weeks ago. (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/ryan-petersen-on-how-global-supply-chains-have-gotten/id1056200096?i=1000538552434) I’m looking forward to the next time they have him on, to hear more about this.

  14. Doug S. says:

    How did you learn about this, given the lack of news coverage?

  15. I agree with some of what you say and disagree with some. But I’m concerned with a broader problem:

    There is no one from your community (that I see broadly as Rationalist and associate with Less Wrong) that takes responsibility for organizing ideas, responding to questions and criticism, and seeing that anything is debated to a conclusion. There’s no leadership that actually engages with the world rationally. You operate on social status hierarchies for who gets listened to or engaged with within the community. So partial outsiders, like me, have a hard time engaging with you guys due to the high risk of any particular point being simply ignored without argument – or with some limited arguments and then an arbitrary cutoff of no more followups at some inconclusive point – which is no fun. There’s also no reasonable forum to use to discuss this; blog comments aren’t really the right place… Less Wrong literally bans dissent; all 3 times I’ve tried to engage there, spaced years apart, my arguments have been suppressed by moderators, which I fear you will take to mean that I’m bad and have no credibility, even though no actual arguments to that effect were ever written by the mods who suppressed my ideas.

    Twitter is a terrible place for discussions. It’s disorganized and designed for discussions to end quickly without reasons rather than pursuing issues to conclusions. In my experience, both on Twitter and elsewhere, people are broadly pessimistic about the possibility of rationally reaching conclusions in discussions. But they won’t even try to debate that. I’ve also had very negative results when trying things like asking people, if you won’t argue for X, will you link any literature that argues it that you agree with? I’ve written some things about this at e.g. https://fallibleideas.com/paths-forward That particular article impressed a Less Wrong moderator who asked me to come discuss at the site, but the same guy turned against me later when, in a discussion, I suggested that the ideas in the article apply to him and he should try to follow them. It seems he liked levers to pressure others to address instead of arbitrarily ignore his arguments, but did not want any such lever used on himself. The underlying issue of how to ensure arguments get addressed instead of ignored, and not to base this on social status – while also preserving people’s time and energy, and not letting bad actors get unlimited resources allocated to their dumb ideas – is IMO extremely important, and I don’t think your community has serious answers to it. I’ve proposed either try using my solutions to that problem or else offer some alternatives, but have been basically ignored without anything that even claims to be a conclusive argument.

    Despite some disagreements (which are minor relative to the more serious higher level issues), I liked your article enough to try again, in a little way, by writing this. I partly want to help but I think your community is too broken, both for me to help and also for me to tell you guys it’s broken. But, since I respected a lot of your writing in this article, and I’ve liked some of your prior articles, I’m trying again anyway.

    I’ll check for replies here for a while. I can also be contacted by email at curi@curi.us

    • aqs says:

      The purpose of “debating arguments to end” reminds me of so-called “adversarial collaboration”. Two (or maybe more) interlocutors set up time and effort to collaborate writing an essay or more ambitious research about a topic where their priors disagree. When the research is completed, the matter has been often argued to the very end, and agreements or disagreements that won’t budge have been likely found.

      The issue is, setting up and bringing such endeavor to end is time-consuming, high-effort projects. It is unlikely such rules are going to get adopted by people who contribute to blogs or forums because they consider its fun, not an obligation.

      Any research project (adversarial or not) often succeeds by concluding itself, but the rationalsphere likes to be more a social sphere of people some of whom sometimes engage in research projects, not a big coordinated research project where all lines of questioning and research are concluded.

      There is a downside to the social aspect, because for a contribution to be noticed in an organical social environment, it has to be *popular* (which, despite of various intellectual commitments people may take to seek truth, is likely never going to be fully aligned with “important and true”). But such is life. Consider the case Zvi writes about in this post, where Zvi claims the Flexport CEO purposefully arranged his message to get signal-boosted so that its arguments get noticed by the right people.

      • Suppose that you’re a high status, popular intellectual. (Most of this will also apply if you’re low or medium status or popularity. It has less relevance for non-intellectuals – people who aren’t interested in ideas, rationality or truth-seeking. But you don’t need any credentials to count as an intellectual; it’s just up to your interests.)

        If you’re wrong about something important, and a smart person knows it and is happy to help for free, what is the most reasonable series of actions he could take which results in you changing your mind? Assume he has no social network, no social media followers, no impressive credentials, and no social status. Assume he lives far away, but he’s fluent in your primary language and uses the internet.

        Does your plan rely on him saying something that goes viral? Does it rely on reddit voters (or twitter reteweeters, or anything similar) seeing value in his idea? Does it rely on him saying something in your blog comments – where most people an ideas are ignored – and you recognize the value in it?

        What if you initially disagree with his great idea and think it’s dumb, but you’re wrong? What if almost everyone doesn’t already understand it and wouldn’t recognize the value right away? But what if the idea would win a debate if anyone actually bothered to debate with it. Is there a series of debates it could win, starting at the bottom and working its way up to you?

        Do you have an organized way to address questions or criticisms? If you’re busy and popular, what about a way for your proxies to do it? Or just people you like or agree with? Is anyone on your side – anyone with similar ideas to you – open to debate, questions or criticisms, so that low social status person, with ideas that initially sound bad, can win debates and earn attention, so that your errors can be corrected? Is that a thing that can happen?

        I’ll readily grant that majority of people who attempt that would be wrong. The majority of stuff that gets ignored, filtered out, downvoted, etc., is bad, low quality, unimportant, etc. But it’s not all. There are good ideas that don’t come from the ingroup of high status people with credentials or popularity.

        There’s also the major problem of high status people from a different clique with something important to say to you but no good way to get the information to you. Yeah they can get a little attention so you hear a summary of their idea or maybe even read one article. But it’ll often take some study, effort, attention, debate, questions, etc., before you change your mind. And high status people in other social structures don’t have good ways to get you to participate in that. They’re seen as threats, enemies, etc. You may well be more biased against that person and his ideas than against a person who is low status. A low status, lone thinker is less threatening than a leader of a rival tribe.

        Does your plan rely on the smart thinker, with the good idea, first changing a bunch of other people’s minds, and then later after his idea becomes popular you’ll consider it? You won’t listen first and be an very early adopter of his better idea, but you’re willing to be semi-early adopter of the idea once a hundred people in your social group have already picked it up? If you won’t go first *who will*? Does your social group have earlier adopters who will go first? Who are they? How can the smart person find and speak to them? Are they labelled in a clear, public way which is visible and understandable to outgroup members? And is there any clear path from those earliest adopters changing their minds to other people, like you, changing your mind? And do good ideas actually propagate reliably within your social group? What if it’s hard to understand so the early adopters are like “this seems pretty good” but they can’t relay the idea to you well enough, because they haven’t learned it well enough to teach it to you? Will you listen to the outsider, who says a lot of the wrong things that clash with your culture and sound dumb or annoying to you, just because some of your group’s early adopters though it had merit, even though they didn’t translate it into culturally acceptable speech that’s easier for you to listen to?

        Does your group have consistent early adopters who are accessible to the outgroup and filter ideas for you? Do you know who they are and pay attention to them? What if they are making some mistakes and filtering out some categories of good ideas? What if they have some systematic biases? Why do you trust them?

        Does your group have no specific individuals with this role, and instead it’s decentralized group effort? For any particular new outsider idea, there’s no predictability about who in your group might find it, understand it, and spread it? For the last several ideas that this happened with, was it different people each time? That approach has upsides but also downsides. Since no one has the role of dealing with new ideas from outsiders, some may be ignored by everyone in your group. (By ignoring I have in mind both not being aware of it at all, as well as taking a quick look and having an initial impression that it’s bad, but without going into the kind of detail or debate necessary to actually find out how good it is and be corrected if you’re wrong.)

        If no one in your group takes responsibility for addressing criticism and questions about your groups ideas, I don’t think that can be fixed by having many people sporadically do it when they individually want to. If no one is doing it systematically, that means basically that each person will do it when it looks promising to him. So there will be a systematic bias against outgroup ideas which do not appear promising initially to people with your groups biases.

        Could it be that there are some people in other groups (or independent/unassociated) who are open to debate about some matters, and interested in debate, and correct, and no one in your group will debate?

        Do you view your group as an organized group? Do you look at its structure and how it operates? Or do you think of yourself as a lone individual who is only loosely associated with several tribes? That’s fine in many ways, but with no clear group roles you need to do more things yourself since you can’t rely on others to do them. If no one else has the same views as you and can function as your proxy in a debate, then you need to be much more open to debate yourself, personally. If you don’t join a group that handles various things for you, and want to handle stuff independently yourself, then you better have a plan to handle them. If no one else is putting out FAQs or addressing critics for you, because you want to be independent and have your own ideas, then you need to figure out how to do that stuff. If that’s too hard or resource intensive, then consider joining a group with resources and other people to help. If you can’t find any decent group with lots of resources and good organization, fine, no problem – I can’t either – but say that openly and visibly, transparently do your best to be open to debate and new ideas. And write some criticisms of some groups or some information about your analysis of how they’re closed to ideas. Explain your choice to reject existing groups.

        I think where tons of people go wrong is by trying to have it both ways without clarity about what’s going on. Partly, they are loosely associated with several groups/tribes. And partly they are independent.

        So they think good ideas could spread in any of those groups and reach them. But they don’t carefully examine whether any one of their groups does that well. If one group is criticized they will claim that it’s OK that it has weaknesses since they pay attention to ideas in other groups. There are many paths for corrections and insights to reach them. And anyway they are an independent thinker who can’t take full responsibility for any group – they have some disagreements with each group. So if the group is wrong, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are wrong.

        They don’t even make any clear, decisive choices about which groups they are members of, and the groups are not clearly defined. And they can claim independence to stay away from anything bad, but also claim to have many group associates to avoid all the burdens of “ok you’re alone; make all the stuff work yourself”. So you have these very loose, poorly organized groups, which don’t take responsibility for debate and answering questions. And then you have a person who has varying levels of involvement with a dozen of those. And he likes his independence.

        But the moment you say “OK so you’re alone and have some claims and there’s no one but you to defend them, so you better be open to debate” he says stuff like: “Nah, if it’s Popper related there are many other Popperians who may or may not debate you, so why should that be my job? And if it’s self-help related, there are books on that and I’m sure there exists some forum somewhere, so it’s not my problem to worry about your innovations in self-help that don’t sound immediately promising to me. And if it’s about drilling for oil, which is my profession, I have plenty of great discussions about that behind closed doors, and my company does have a public mailing address where you can send suggestions. And if it’s about physics, which I published an academic paper on, there are many other physicists so probably someone else has considered your idea, or you could convince someone else, or you could get past the gatekeepers and publish a paper in a journal I read. And if it’s about rationality, try Twitter or Reddit; why should I personally care? There are plenty of other people you can talk with.”

        He won’t take responsibility for anything, nor will he send you to speak to anyone who will. None of the things have reasonable ways to get debates concluded. Often they have no reasonable way to get much debate at all. Rather than examine any one mechanism for ideas to spread, and paying careful attention to what’s wrong with it, they will say that there are, amorphously, many other options. Which is true. But which one works well?

        There are plenty of mechanisms to spread ideas that sound great to lots of people right away. If it’s short, simple and immediately appealing, it can spread fine. But many good ideas are counter-intuitive. Many good ideas sound wrong or bad because they clash with people’s existing habits and biases. Many good ideas challenge some authority or established power. They can threaten reputations, careers, and egos. They can create huge sunk costs – they can mean that a lot of the training of a whole profession was a waste. If you spent years learning something in expensive schooling, and it’s wrong, you’ll need to learn new things. Most people are very hostile to that kind of thing and will use many defense mechanisms, including irrational ones, rather than face it. How will those non-initially-appealing ideas spread?

        People say you can break ideas down into parts, each of which is easy, non-threatening, and appealing. Each little bit gives the listener a viable way to change, and then many little things can eventually add up to the whole idea. There are flaws with this approach. One of the big flaws is that, often, the components don’t offer enough value. You can learn the idea one bit at a time, but it’s the whole idea which is important; the bits are important as steps towards the big idea but not all of them are very useful independently, alone, in isolation. You can’t always take an important idea and break it into tiny components, so it’s easier to learn incrementally, and have every component be important in isolation. So either you have to tell them what’s being built towards – a conclusion they don’t want to hear – or else why will they care and pay attention to learning each little piece?

        The issue of initially appealing ideas and social status hierarchies are related issues. When an idea is favorable to social power, it can easily spread because people gain status by spreading it. But when it challenges power, most group members attack it as the evil outgroup because opposing it is the way to gain or maintain their social status. So it’s hard for it to spread because people are bandwagoning against it.

        If the idea is awesome and super valuable and people understand it right away and see the value, it can spread despite challenging power. It can go against the flow. But most great new ideas are harder to understand. The value isn’t so easy to extract. It takes some work. The payoffs can be very worthwhile – much larger than the effort – but they aren’t immediate. It’s very hard for ideas like this to spread in a social group that sees them as the enemy. The members will say it’s bad and not put in the work to understand and use it better. Why? First, they don’t know if it’s actually good – there are many bad ideas claiming to be good ideas that take some effort to learn. They don’t have good mechanisms to figure out which are which. Second, even if they learn it successfully and it’s good, the likely result is they alienate themselves from the group. If tons of people in the group learn it, great, learn it too. But if you’re an early adopter, how do you know the majority in your group will ever adopt the idea, even if it’s good? There are many reasons to doubt that they will.

        What can be done about these problems? Individuals can take personal responsibility for having methods of filtering ideas which don’t just block some good new ideas with no reasonable way for that to be fixed. It’s one thing not to think of every great new insight; that’s way too hard; it’s another thing if someone does think of some, and is happy to share, but there’s no way you’ll listen.

        Individuals can also stop being so tribalist and spending their lives climbing social status hierarchies in groups, *especially* in loosely organized, poorly defined groups with no formal structures or clear rules or membership.

        Individuals can pressure groups, tribes, status hierarchies, individuals, etc., to think about and set up mechanisms for error correction to happen and for new ideas to spread. Effort can be put into making this stuff work.

        *Stop assuming that the good ideas will float to the top*. They systematically do not. The current systems are not designed to make that work. There are widespread problems which suppress good ideas. You can’t just assume that every idea will get some attention, and the good ones will then be shared some and get more attention, and the great ones will be shared even more and get more attention, etc. That doesn’t work because there are systematic biases, no good places to initially share ideas to get a fair hearing, and *non-transparent negative judgments, that aren’t backed by debate that addresses the issues, are a bad system*. Disliking stuff doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Reasons and arguments are needed that address questions and criticisms. And then followups are needed. People need ideas about how to reach conclusions in debate (without using too much resources like time and effort), rather than to think debates usually aren’t very fruitful (granted) so just judge stuff for reasons you never share and then move on to what seems good to you (a great recipe for your biases to flourish and never be challenged substantively because you never stop and put in work to understanding things that conflict with your biases). But, you tell me, you do challenge yourself sometimes? No, what happens is some things seem kinda challenging but aren’t real threats, and *those* spread so people can feel good and rational. People like to face challenges that they’ll beat. People like to debate people they’ll beat. They like to face rival ideas that they’ll beat. Doing that is not a way for your biases to be overturned and for you to change your mind substantively.

  16. DRM says:

    Good piece here on some of the bottlenecks. Oddly, there is a picture from Oct 3 with Containers stacked high in this piece (prior to the famous tweetstorm.): https://news.bloomberglaw.com/daily-labor-report/port-paralysis-vexes-longshore-workers-threatened-by-automation

  17. tgdavies says:

    I was afraid that the punchline would be that no one had cranes that could stack more than two high anyway.

  18. none says:

    VWD. The last time I heard about someone taking a 3 hour tour in a boat, the boat ran aground and we got 3 seasons of Gilligan’s Island. This is much better.

  19. mzuo says:

    Enlightening article except for one part: “ Normally one would settle this by changing prices, but for various reasons we won’t get into price mechanisms aren’t working properly to fix supply shortages.”

    Under the normal definitions, pricing mechanisms always work, as market forces can never be fully extirpated, regardless of what happens on this Earth. Even ants experience market forces.

    It’s just that nobody really dared, or had the authority, to raise prices high enough to force the situation back to normal. The really interesting questions are how high would they have needed to be get things smoothly working under a 2 stack limit and how much backlash that would generate.

  20. none says:

    Here is another article about that tweet thread, pointing out among other things the perverse incentives about container non-fungibility and the railroads making big bucks on those 1500 mile journeys to Dallas:

    https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2021/10/the-last-days-of-the-romanovs-at-the-port-of-los-angeles-where-is-everybody.html

    • Basil Marte says:

      “containers are not fungible” is what jumped out at me from the thread, too. Like, they are explicitly designed to be maximally fungible — and I happened to know about https://www.igg.org.uk/rail/1-hist/hist-c.htm as an analogy, fairly similar to the comparison the article made.

      On the other hand, what’s wrong with using railroads for moving the incoming loaded containers large distances overland, if their destinations are not close to the port? “That’s what they are for” in multiple senses; they use less labor (driver-hours) — and for that matter energy, right-of-way width, etc. — per container moved than trucks, and tasks like this (“unit trains” moving long distances, whether they are carrying containers or bulk materials) are what railways/-roads are the best at.

      • Mark Magagna says:

        Fixing the current problem would depend on how connected the ports are with railroads now, as well as how connected the railroads are with the destinations of those containers.

        Yes, the containers are somewhat fungible (better to say stackable, since that is the design), but they are also a) owned and b) not completely fungible – the Twitter thread talks about different container lengths and challenges getting the proper truck chassis to fit.

  21. Brian Slesinsky says:

    Before declaring victory and expounding at length about lessons learned, it seems like someone should check: is there is still a lion across the river?

    It doesn’t seem to be as easy to find good data for supply chains as for the pandemic. Ideally someone would find a good graph of container throughput in LA and Long Beach. Otherwise, maybe Peterson should go on another boat ride.

  22. Alsadius says:

    It’s worth noting that this is almost exactly what lobbyists do all day. I know a few of them, and they don’t wave sacks of cash around – it’s all about a) convincing decision-makers that your idea is a good one, and/or b) creating public pressure for positive action.

    A lot of lobbying is more rivalrous than this particular story, and proposals will generally have more opponents, but the broad strokes are identical.

  23. Oleg S. says:

    I really like your meta here :) So how about getting rid of first-past-the-post as a simple technical solution to the political traffic jam in the US?

  24. Craken says:

    2019 statistics on container shipping at U.S. ports.
    Total annual volume of containers at U.S. ports: 55 million TEUs (twenty foot equivalents).
    Total annual volume of containers at L.A. and Long Beach: 9 and 8 million TEUs.

    That’s about 30% of all American container shipping at those two ports. Given the interconnectedness of the global economy and America’s central role in it, that level of blockage would be highly damaging if it continued for long.

    My idea: Contract as much as possible the grace period offered foreign companies listing on American exchanges that was written into the 2020 “Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act.” They were given a 3 year grace period to bring their accounting and reporting practices up to American standards. In part because of this excessive length, American investors are in the process of losing tens of billions in the Evergrande debacle. They’re likely to lose still more in investments in other foreign (especially Chinese) companies which are essentially fraudulent enterprises. Wall Street insiders have made a fortune hawking this garbage to American investors, including many institutional investors. We’ve told our enemies, both on Wall Street and in China, just how much more time they have to engage in easy defraudings. We ought to surprise our enemies and end their crime spree early. Kyle Bass has talked about this for some time, but doesn’t get traction.

  25. Chalid says:

    One thing that makes me suspicious as hell is the description of the port being at a standstill. You can just compare containers moved by month in 2021 vs pre-pandemic in 2019 and see that the port is moving lots more than it used to.

    https://www.portoflosangeles.org/business/statistics/container-statistics/historical-teu-statistics-2021
    https://www.portoflosangeles.org/business/statistics/container-statistics/historical-teu-statistics-2019

    September 2019: 780k TEUs
    September 2021: 904k TEUs

    So we’re up about 15% since 2019 (which was itself a very economically strong and therefore presumably busy year). So how is it that we get this description of all these cranes sitting idle and the like?

    • anon3765 says:

      Are those numbers for the Port of Los Angles plus the Port of Long Beach? The latter is where the boat ride and bureaucratic surprise happened.

  26. Ben Wōden says:

    Here in the UK, we ditched our cabotage rules after decades, with no fanfare whatsoever, once things got sufficiently bad that a pointless value-destroying nonsense was something people were paying attention to.

    “Cabotage” is the dastardly act of driving a lorry between two places, neither of which is in the country in which you’re based. As a completely destructive bit of protectionist tit-for-tat retaliation, loads of countries have placed hard limits on the number of such journeys any one operator can make.

    Stuff’s getting a bit hairy in terms of road freight in the UK right now, and suddenly this stupidity was more obviously destroying value than it normally is. One minor magazine (CapX) wrote a story about it, and the restriction just got removed. Done.

    Seems like a similar situation, though the mechanisms are a bit different. CapX is uncomplicatedly a pro-free-market magazine and so was, to an extent, pushing a political line in a predictable way. However, there aren’t any pro-free-market parties in the UK, apart from maybe the Lib Dems if you catch them on a good day (and those are few and far between these days), and so even though this is a political stance, it isn’t *partisan*, which I think is probably the key element that allowed it to work, and which allowed this port story to happen.

    Something something Robin Hanson something something sideways rope.

  27. ChrisW says:

    > We are capable of actually acting fast and correctly when circumstances are right.
    But isn’t this an example of democracy being unable to act at all, and so the fix had to be implemented by executive fiat? That doesn’t speak well for the mode we’d like our society to be operating in.

  28. Anonymous-backtick says:

    How sure are you that prolonging the life of a regime so cancerous that you have to ~fake a boat ride and launch a very careful campaign on *twitter* just to cancel out just one of its bureaucrats’ monstrous civilization-threatening overreaches is a net good thing to do?

    • Anonymous-backtick says:

      That sentence got a little out of hand. To be clear, I’m saying fixing the supply chain issues within the current framework may be worse than letting the catastrophe run its course and continue piling straws on the legitimacy camel.

      • dogiv says:

        Whose legitimacy exactly? No plausible amount of supply disruption will overthrow the state of California, let alone the US, and if somehow it did the replacement would undoubtedly be something worse.

  29. Triskele says:

    “Normally one would settle this by changing prices, but for various reasons we won’t get into price mechanisms aren’t working properly to fix supply shortages.”
    I’m actually interested to hear more about this tbh.

  30. joncard1 says:

    “ Thanks to Covid-19, there was increased demand to ship containers, creating more empty containers, and less throughput to remove those containers.”

    Possibly I’m wrong, but I suspect this is supposed to be “decreased”. Normally, the containers would be out on the road doing stuff, but with a decrease in demand, they got returned to the port. I’m not sure how an increase in demand results in more empty containers sitting around, but I could be wrong. And I don’t know whether demand increased or decreased.

    • Mike Van Nuland says:

      ships returned to China without waiting for the emptys to be reloaded.

    • JennyMonten says:

      As I understand it, the demand for goods during Covid-19 as people were more at home–wanting more “nesting” goods for their homes. I know this was me and my husband!

  31. Fred says:

    I have photos I took on 14 October showing containers stacked [at least] 5 high in the Port of Los Angeles (seemingly all over, not in just a couple of places). So I would suggest if there is/was this bottleneck, it is/was someplace else in the supply line. Not inside the port itself.

    My photos also show the cranes not getting lots of use, but that could be because they were “between” ships. I also noticed a lot of trucks waiting outside the port when I was down there, and quite a few ships off shore just “sitting” around.

  32. Pingback: The Mess In LA And Long Beach Harbors | Transterrestrial Musings

  33. David Osterloh says:

    THERE ARE ports available in Texas and Florida that are not running to capacity. Why have California have a monopoly on the trade, No more ports in California, diversify and expand not consolidate cut down clogged roads and rail, spread it out. That is the next bottle neck

  34. Brandon Dilldo says:

    Get rid of Joe Biden and his Marxist ideas

  35. The relaxation of stacking regulation is just an offset for a problem of not enough truckers to move the freight. That is probably related to AB5 and California rules about the age of trucks permitted to operate. Both of these are recent changes to the regulatory environment which weren’t evident during the depressed activity due to Covid 19. I would also point out that ports in Texas, Florida, and the Carolinas are not backing up and would like the business. I understand that there are Jones Act limitations that keep foreign ships from traveling between American ports. The Jones Act allows the President to waive many of its provisions for reasons of national security.

  36. Bret says:

    Your story doesn’t provide evidence for something important: there’s nothing that links Ryan’s tweets to the executive order except coincidental proximity in time and, in fact, such close proximity that it seems improbably if not impossibly fast. It seems more likely to me that the bureaucrats were indeed looking into the problem and came up with a similar solution and happened to announce it shortly after the tweets.

    • David Osterloh says:

      more likely to me that the bureaucrats were indeed looking into the problem and came up with a similar solution and happened to announce it shortly after the tweets.
      Yeah and the “infrastructure” bill costs nothing.
      bureaucrats couldn’t run a 2 car funeral procession without screwing it up
      They look for ways to claim that more taxes and a commission will solve the problem after a suitable time to meet and review the situation, have a meetings with the respective government experts, engineers, environmentalists, community groups, experts on racism and white supremacy, and wait for Gretta Turdburg to weight in, Then we can get down to the business of writing a rule and letting it out for review, why hell give us a year to get the process in place and it should be fixed in the next 18 months after that, depending on court challenges.
      Never let a crisis got to waste

  37. David R. Graham says:

    From the department of thinking ahead, this may be of interest: After Washing Down Washington D.C.: https://theological-geography.net/?p=59184

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  40. alanstorm says:

    And we can rely on Matty Y to screw things up –

    No, dear boy, you can’t assume that every height regulation springs from the same source and has the same solution. This is the type of simplistic “thinking” from liberals that we are accustomed to.

    This is a specific solution to a problem that should NOT have existed in the first place.

  41. askeptik says:

    A couple points:
    Though you wrote mostly about The Port of Long Beach, that is not the whole story/problem.
    The PORTS of Long Beach/Los Angeles, are separate administrative entities that are like Siamese Twins; has the Los Angeles Harbor Authority/City Council done anything about their restrictive stacking regulation?
    As to a new port, the Mexican Government has been trying to establish such at Bahia Todos Los Santos (Ensenada, Baja Ca.) for years. But, there is no rail connection between Ensenada and the USA.
    Union Pacific RR negotiated for years over this and finally just threw their hands up and walked away. Ensenada could be a marvelous gateway to the North American interior but their are too many independent interests in Mexico with their hands out, and not a few relics of the Mexican Revolution (20th Century Version) on the lawbooks that restrict what foreign entities can do along the coasts and borders – and the nationalization of foreign (USA) petroleum properties during the Depression is still a stumbling block to foreign investment.

  42. Elaine Schramm says:

    Yeah. Let’s fix the lack of mental health resources. Many are caused by and all mental illness is negatively affected by nervous system dysregulation. There are numerous ways for individuals to immediately begin the process of developing resiliency which reduces symptoms, increases emotional choices (i.e. choosing addictive substances to temporarily provide relief from NSD, choosing domestic violence as a way to resolve emotional dysfunction/disorder, choosing to regulate and engage parasympathetic nervous system before PTSD panic/symptom response renders a person into disabled status). This will eventually be taught to children due to the generational trauma of abuse, racism, poverty, religious indoctrination, but for now, there are a hell of a lot of Physical Therapy offices that could be utilized that are totally set up for small class instruction then individualized rooms for private NSD treatment. It takes a bed, hot or cold packs, headphones or earplugs, meditation choices on podcasts or youtube, maybe a Tens Unit, and all the client has to do is specific breathing exercises to practice activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Psychology, therapy, rehab are now beyond most people’s ability to afford and insurance won’t cover it, especially if you have Medicare. But this could be 20.00 a person, one hour each, and running 10 people thru tx for 5 hours in the evening at a standing facility is another revenue stream with shared expenses onan already running business. This could be part of Drug Court, post incarceration tx and support, substance abuse avoidance and rehab, community service requirement, it’s hugely more effective than anger management with worksheets and lectures. The tx can continue at home of course, and taught to the kids, and maybe we could start to heal from this horrible mess we have made with incompetent parenting being passed on through each generation. Sounds far fetched? Go do the online searching and read up on trauma bonds, attachment disorders, generational trauma, parasympathetic nervous system, fight/flight/freeze/fawn CNS response, “What Happened To You” and “How To Do The Work” are layperson readable to get you started.

  43. J. Simmons says:

    I cannot love this enough! We need this mindset in Congress and every boardroom in our country. We have so many things that need to be fixed, starting with the low hanging fruit.

    • David Osterloh says:

      all I can say is let a half dozen of us farmer at it (yes I am a dairy farmer) it would probably be fixed in about a month, Oh and everyone else get the hell out of the road!

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  45. Robbin druso says:

    Keep being vigilant Ryan. Never change. And a huge Thankyou. Which still is not enough.

  46. Quixote says:

    It’s not the case that this story wasn’t being covered by any news. I think the labor news sites were covering this from the angle of, truck drivers are sitting in cabs waiting for things to be loaded and not getting paid for their time, let’s find out why.

    And I would not be surprised if shipping new and other trade publications were covering this, although I don’t see any of those as I don’t read any trade news for industries other than finance.

    As to something more mainstream that either trades or labor journalism, I recall as far back as February, The Economist was doing articles on containers pilling up at ports and they did another article on containers last month (Sep) although I don’t remember if they got this far into the weeds on details of exactly what regulations were causing the problem.

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  50. Eric Reynolds says:

    Great article. In terms of such things happening “at scale” to change the course of climate change… The author stated “If your model did expect it, I’m very curious to know how that is possible, and how you explain the years 2020 and 2021.”
    Well, here is how it is possibke, and also explains 2020 and 2021!
    https://www.youmattermorethanyouthink.com/

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