No Minister

Good news from a simple solution

with one comment

In the last few weeks I’ve written a couple of posts on the supply chain problems cropping up around the world, in particular across the Pacific and especially between the USA and China:

The Shipping News

World’s Worst Job

Since then the problem has actually got worse, with even more ships parked outside the Port of Los Angeles. In reading one of my foreign sources I came across a link to the Twitter account of a guy called Ryan Petersen who had rented a boat to go and look at the port to see what was happening.

But that was as far as I read and it merely confirmed other news about the situation. As it happens I should have read further, because he discovered something amazing that is almost beyond belief.

As this commentator summarises while listing out the entire Twitter thread:

  1. There was a rule in the Port saying you could only stack shipping containers two containers high.
  2. 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.
  3. This rule was created, and I am not making this up, because it was decided that higher stacks were not sufficiently aesthetically pleasing.
  4. If you violated this rule, you lost your right to operate at the port.
  5. In normal times, this was annoying but not a huge deal.

The last point on that list is this:

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.

It’s incredible that this one stupid bureaucratic rule could be so obviously part of a massive and growing problem and not have anything done about it.

As it happens the Twitter guy did do something about. Having spotted the problem he suggested the obvious solution of suspending the rule so that containers could be stacked more than two high.

So far, so what you may say. Well this is where the power of connecting people on Social Media, in this case Twitter, was made obvious and for once in a good way. 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 – including the people who make decisions, like the Mayor of Long Beach where the port is located:

That decision was made just eight hours after Petersen’s Tweet thread was posted.

EIGHT HOURS!

You can read the following blog post – An Unexpected Victory – for a (lengthy) analysis of this incident as an example of problem solving – and a glimmer of hope for solving other problems:

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.

Sadly there are multiple problems involved in the supply chain crisis, of which this was just one.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 9, 2021 at 10:08 am

One Response

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  1. Look at website http://www.Marinetraffic.com/en/ais/home.
    It covers every vessel world wide currently and as you say LA and West Coast is horrifying currently.
    Try Tauranga and Auckland for the waiting vessels.
    All are named.

    Papa Mike

    November 9, 2021 at 1:19 pm


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