With the CNMI about 90% dependent on supplies, including food, that are sourced from outside, news that cargo ships carrying thousands of goods in containers are piling up and are seeing backlogs in major U.S. ports is worrying news that could severely impact the availability of goods in the CNMI.
Two major distributors of consumer goods on the islands—Micronesian Brokers Inc. and CTSI Logistics Inc.—are having contrasting experience about the logjam, with Micronesian Brokers seeing some delayed shipments while CTSI is being largely spared for now since its carrier from the U.S. West Coast has its own wharf or dock.
Micronesian Brokers Inc. general manager Dennis Yoshimoto affirmed that they are indeed experiencing delayed shipments “….not only from port congestion but also due to delays in train and trucking schedules within the continental U.S.”
What Micronesian Brokers Inc. tries to do is work closely with suppliers to provide forecasts months in advance “so they can schedule our production and lock in our order. There will still be logistical delays but we just need to increase the level of our warehouse buffer stock to minimize shortages and out-of-stock situations as best we can for our island community,” Yoshimoto said.
Micronesian Brokers Inc. brings to the CNMI brands such as Anchor, Colgate-Palmolive, Dial, Gerber, and Frito Lay, to name a few.
“Products that we import from the Asia-Pacific region are also severely impacted by shipping delays because of port congestion. We are told this situation will continue at least into 2022,” Yoshimoto added.
CTSI Logistics Inc. general manager Joven Cruz has a different take when it comes to the impact of cargo delays in the CNMI “…the carriers that we use from the U.S. West Coast to Saipan have their own wharf or dock so their vessels are not affected by the port congestion. …Products that we transport from the U.S. mainland to the CNMI have not been affected so far,” he said.
Part of CTSI Logistics Inc.’s clients are D&Q, Xerox, and Mobil.
Cruz acknowledged, though, that the Asian region is also affected by cargo delivery delays. “Various Asian ports such as Hong Kong, Nansha, and other origins are experiencing port congestion and shortage of containers. These issues are causing delays in the arrival of the containers and unwanted increase in freight rates. But our vessels are consistently bringing in the containers into the CNMI,” he said.
“Despite the current situation in various Asian ports, other origins and in the U.S., importers in the CNMI are still able to bring in the products that they need consistently. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of stock at the moment,” he added.
The loading and distribution of consumer goods have been severely affected by the circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Outgoing delivery of goods are equally affected. A shortage in the workforce and health and safety protocols during the pandemic are adding to the burden of shippers. From transfer to operating lifts at docks, cargo delivery has proven to be less efficient and is further delayed by contact training.