By JO EARLY
Across America shelves are empty, prices are skyrocketing and small businesses are struggling to find materials. The main cause of the problem is sitting in the ocean, according to Mark Nair, a macroeconomics professor and senior consultant for career accelerators at Amarillo College.
“You have ports that are blocked up with a lot of ships,” he said. “A giant ship shows up and ports work overtime to unload that ship, and then another giant ship comes in. The infrastructure has been right on a teetering edge for the past 10 years because of these massive ships.”
COVID-19 exacerbated a problem already put in place by shipping monopolies, Nair said.
“There are only a handful of these giant shipping companies because they’ve had mergers since the 80s, and they’re going to bring in $100 billion in profits this year,” Nair said. “They’re making money off ships just sitting in the ocean because they’re charging fees to keep a company’s stuff on the ship. There is zero incentive for the ships to move faster, and there’s zero incentive for the ports to move faster because the ports are collecting fees as well.”
On Amarillo College’s campuses, the shortage is affecting construction.
“We have had several delays in receiving materials for both the Innovation Outpost and the CUB projects,” Danny Smith, master plan program manager, said.
The bookstore has also been experiencing reconstruction delays, but students will still be able to obtain their books and materials for the spring semester.
“We know that we need to order a month or two in advance to get the things that we need, so it’s been a minimal impact to us,” Andrew Flores, the director of Badger Central bookstore and café, said. “It’s something that we’ve experienced before, so we can make adjustments, or we have protocols in place to work around issues.”
Nair advised preparing for less commercial celebrations this holiday season.
“The best thing that people can do is understand why there are constraints, and what they might face when they go to the grocery store or go to buy something, and lower their expectations a little bit,” he said. “Maybe come up with other clever ways of giving gifts for the holiday season. Something that’s personal, something that is a little more meaningful than a plastic something off a shelf. Because those plastic things are stuck in a cargo container and they’re not moving anywhere.”