BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Since the pandemic began, the islands, the U.S. mainland and international markets have dealt with continuous shortages of a variety of products that have seen consumers stockpiling everything from toilet tissue to groceries.
Shortages are due to continue and are affecting the supply chain into the islands in various ways.
Charlie Hermosa, general manager for APL said the prospect of a shortage of shipping containers loomed earlier this year.
“I saw this thing coming months ago,” he said.
When wholesalers and retailers were unable to sell goods, they also stopped unloading them. “They are using the containers like storage,” Hermosa said.
The shipping industry has not seen such a situation in decades, he said, where full containers are arriving at destinations, and not enough empty containers are going back into the supply chain. “A lot of the shipping companies are trying to reposition,” Hermosa said.
Containers have also been stockpiling at the terminal in Los Angeles, he said. “There’s not one warehouse that’s not full of freight — they can’t get it out.”
There is a shortage of shipping containers out of mainland China, and those that are available are priced high, he said.
Hermosa also said the situation should become more stabilized in 2021. “The containers are out there; we just need to get them back in the system. We should be able to have a little surplus by the end of January or February.”
Rory Respicio, general manager of the Port Authority of Guam said the port is storing containers for customers, which it began doing when the island went into PCOR 1 again. Initially the port would give businesses five days to collect containers, and would charge them on the sixth day, but is not doing that now.
Respicio said Gov. Lourdes A. Leon Guerrero asked him to assist those businesses who had been unable to retrieve containers to store at their businesses, for fear of vandalism. The containers at the port are only those with dry goods.
“We’ve been stockpiling those containers at the port,” he said. “They’re safely stored at the port.” Respicio said the effort to help island businesses was an industry-wide one. “We’ve been working with the carriers and the shipping agents. … This is the biggest thing we could think of.”
In other port news, Respicio said the port has seen 6% less in container throughput year to date compared to the previous year. However, he said the port received more containers in fiscal 2020 than in fiscal 2019, and actually received 0.2% more in container throughput in fiscal 2020. The port will net $4.2 million for the fiscal year, he said.
Items in short supply in Guam that the Journal has written about include bicycles, white goods and furniture.
Most recently, sewing machines — a hot item for Christmas gifts this year — have joined the list. Alan Sadhwani, owner of Tick Tock Electronics in Tamuning confirmed that sewing machines are in short supply, though he does expect further deliveries after Christmas. “Shipments are coming in slowly,” he said. Tick Tock carries a variety of products as demands change, he said. “What people want — it’s very day-to-day.”
And while the average consumer may not notice a shortage, if you are fond of a particular beverage that is not so popular, you might find that in short supply too.
Marcos Fong, CEO of Foremost Foods Inc. and Coca-Cola Beverage (Guam) Co. told the Journal that products have slowed in reaching Guam.
“There’s been some carrier delays and some trucking delays,” he said. “Right now, it’s a matter of days — up to a week.” His group has experienced delays in Saipan also.
But Fong has bigger issues to deal with.
He confirmed that the islands have also been affected by a worldwide shortage of aluminum cans.
“That has affected the nation and to some extent the world,” he said. The issue has now reached the islands. “We’ve come to a point where that’s starting to happen,” Fong said.
As to how Coca-Cola has tackled the problem, he said, “They’ve done a two-pronged strategy.” The beverage giant has moved into plastic containers and has also focused on using aluminum for its core or popular lines.
“Coca-Cola, Coke Zero, Sprite, Fanta, Diet Coke — all of those are going to be at the front of the line,” Fong said. “The others they may produce at a reduced frequency.”
Consumers who have a particular favorite among less popular Coca-Cola lines such as Fanta Strawberry, Fanta Grape or Barq’s Root Beer might want to get those goods when they see them and may stockpile. “I think those folks will,” Fong said.
In the meantime, Coca-Cola has been monitoring flow to maintain supplies, he said.
“We’ve been keeping very close tabs with the manufacturers,” he said. That has been necessary since the beginning of the pandemic Fong said as supplies can fluctuate. For example, sugar was in short supply at the beginning of the pandemic, he said.
While Fong said there is no reason for retailers and consumers to worry about Coca-Cola products or Foremost dairy and other products, he does not see supply leveling out any time soon.
“This is probably going to continue into the first half of 2021,” he said. “The situation is so fluid.” mbj