One expert said ships are waiting at anchor in California...

One expert said ships are waiting at anchor in California ports for longer than it takes to sail across the Pacific. Here, a backlogged port in China.  Credit: AP

Supply-chain problems are here to stay.

Shortages of finished products and raw materials will persist next year as transportation companies continue to grapple with unprecedented demand, experts said Thursday.

The supply chain — a network of airplanes, cargo ships, manufacturers, ports, suppliers, tractor trailers and warehouses that deliver goods to consumers — remains upended by the pandemic.

Factories are closing temporarily to slow the coronavirus’ spread. Cargo ships wait days to enter a port because of a shortage of stevedores, truck drivers and warehouses. Retailers have less merchandise on their store shelves and websites.

"We’re going to be going through all of 2022 in a very similar situation to what we’re experiencing today," said Jim Peeples, president of Challenger Motor Freight in Ontario, Canada, one of North America’s largest trucking companies.

"The demand for goods to move over the road is far exceeding the capacity that currently exists…There’s an estimated shortage of 80,000 truck drivers in the United States and 30,000 in Canada," he said.

Peeples was among four experts who discussed supply-chain problems and their impact on local companies in a virtual event organized by the Long Island Association business group on Thursday.

Peeples and others said firms in Nassau and Suffolk counties will likely see the shortage of truck drivers worsen early next year. Beginning in mid-January, Canada and the United States will limit border crossing to drivers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

"That’s going to be a huge problem for shippers on both sides of the border," said Peeples, adding that 28,000 truck drivers, or 18%, of the 160,000 who cross the northern border aren’t fully vaccinated.

He predicted that demand for vaccinated drivers will soar, leading their pay to increase 20%.

At ports in the metropolitan area, the amount of cargo is up 24% compared with 2020, and the trend is expected to continue next year, according to Sam Ruda, port department director for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

"This is related to COVID, changes in demand and e-commerce," he said.

The shipping challenges have forced Canon, the Japanese camera and copier manufacturer, to re-engineer its transportation network numerous times, said Dan Schultz, senior logistics director for the company's Americas division, based in Melville.

"What worked for us last week doesn’t work for us this week…You have to be open minded and creative regarding your supply-chain options," he said.

John Costanzo, CEO of the consulting firm LDK Global Logistics in East Norwich, agreed. "Right now, ships are waiting longer [to enter a California port] than it takes to sail across the Pacific," he said.

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