We may not actually be out of this pandemic, but a late-pandemic buying boom is sweeping the country and it can be seen in dramatic form in San Francisco Bay right now.
"Whenever you see container ships anchoring out in the bay, [you should] know that is unusual," says Port of Oakland spokesperson Marilyn Sandifur, speaking to KPIX.
"We set a historic record," Sandifur added, saying that this is the busiest moment the port has seen in its 94-year history. "We have never seen anything like this before, it’s unprecedented."
Cargo ships are anchored all over the bay. The #PortofOakland says this is unprecedented as ships are forced to wait to unload their containers. The story tonight on @KPIXtv at 11. pic.twitter.com/vP7XKvxVlT— Andrea Nakano (@AndreaKPIX) April 20, 2021
Cargo ships are lining up to unload at the Port of Oakland this week, much like they are in the waters outside the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach. They're indicators of a fast-rebounding American economy, and record level of imports coming into the country all at once — this is, in fact, part of what's caused the boba tea shortage you've likely heard about. All those tapioca balls are sitting in containers somewhere on one of these idling ships.
There have been large numbers of container ships in SF Bay for a couple of months now, but previously the traffic jam was reportedly being caused by a shortage of staff at the Port of Oakland.
"This is the biggest surge we've seen of imports to the United States ever," says Port of Los Angeles director Gene Seroka, speaking to CBS News. "We've been buying more retail goods, home improvement products, and exercise equipment than ever before."
Sandifur says that exports are up also — it's not all just imports. The Port of Oakland recently saw 97,000 containers come in, but there were also 94,000 containers going out, primarily carrying agricultural products to Asia.
All of this translates to an economy roaring back, and the International Monetary Fund is predicting a 6.4% bump in GDP for the U.S. this year, compared to a 3.5% contraction in 2020.
The backlog of ships needing to unload is causing supply-chain issues for more than just boba. And it's not clear that the trend is going to abate anytime soon, with experts saying it could last through the summer, or until the end of the year when holiday imports pick up.
Top image: k_pendergrast/Twitter