White House hails 'serious progress' on supply chains despite record backlog at California ports

157 ships waiting at ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday hailed the "serious progress" being made in the days following President Biden's efforts to ensure ports in California operate 24 hours a day in an effort to quell the record bottlenecks in the supply chain.

Psaki, during the White House briefing Tuesday, said she had "some good news on the supply chain front," announcing that Union Pacific Railroad would serve the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and would also operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help move the backlog of containers.


"The port of Los Angeles executive director Gene Seroka said that we have already cut in half the amount of cargo that is sitting on the docks for 13 days or longer," Psaki explained. "That is serious progress, and this commitment from the railroad is just the latest step toward a 24/7 supply chain, and the result of important partnerships between business, labor and the port leadership."

Last week, the White House announced that the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach would become 24/7 operations, along with commitments from the largest carriers of goods – WalmartFedEx and UPS — as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to relieve supply chain bottlenecks, strengthen supply chain resiliency and ease shipping backlogs.

But the number of ships waiting to enter those ports Monday hit a record high, with data from the Marine Exchange reporting a total of 157 ships waiting at the ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach. As of Monday, 100 ships were at anchor and 57 were at berths.

FILE PHOTO: Shipping containers are unloaded from ships at a container terminal at the Port of Long Beach-Port of Los Angeles complex in Los Angeles, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo / Reuters)

Nevertheless, Psaki, on Tuesday, said President Biden "is satisfied that progress continues to be made."

"And one of the reasons that there has been so much traffic in a lot of these ports is because there are more goods that are being ordered by people across the country," Psaki said, touting the economy under the Biden administration. "People have more money, expendable resources, their wages are up, more people are working than they were a year ago."

Psaki added, though, that "federal support" was "needed with direct, appropriate action" to help the situation.

"We’re going to continue to evaluate steps that need to be taken in order to move toward a 24/7 global supply chain," Psaki said, adding that the administration has "made a great deal of progress already by working with labor leaders, individuals running these ports," and private sector companies to "make progress" and  "expedite the moving of goods."

When asked why the president did not act sooner to address the supply chain challenges, Psaki defended his actions, saying he formed a task force early in his administration to review the matter.

"What we know from the global supply chain issues is that they are multifaceted right now," Psaki said, noting that, right now, the administration has been focusing on issues at the ports. "But there are other issues that have impacted the global supply chain that we have been working to address through our task force from the beginning."


Psaki cited "the fact that manufacturing sites around the world have been shut down because of COVID," as well as the "shortage of drivers that we have seen."

Psaki said the administration has been working with unions to "help address the shortages of workers, whether they are at the ports or whether they are driving, or other components that impact the supply chain."

But as the backlog grows in the California ports due to a record number of container ships waiting at sea, the Port of Savannah is also starting to see congestion as nearly two dozen ships wait off the Georgia coast.

Retailers and the White House issued a stark warning to consumers with regards to holiday shopping, urging they buy gifts early as the shipping crisis stifles production.

"I think the important thing to understand here is that there are multiple issues that are impacting the supply chain, and some of that is that, as the economy has turned back on, more people had expendable income, wages to buy more goods – more people are buying more goods," she said, adding that consumers are buying "more things online than going into stores."


"That is also impacting the volume," Psaki said.

Supply chain issues are a source of mounting concern as global economies attempt to meet surging demand and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shortages of basic household items, such as toilet paper, raw materials needed for construction and critical tech components, such as semiconductors, have contributed to a surge in prices for consumers.

The issues prompted Biden to form the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force to identify and eliminate bottlenecks in U.S. supply chains.

Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday that America’s supply chain disruptions are expected to continue into next year, also claiming that the bottleneck has been spurred, in part, by an unprecedented amount of demand brought on by Biden’s economic recovery.

During an appearance on CNN’s "State of the Union," Buttigieg was asked by host Jake Tapper if Americans should prepare themselves for economic issues like the supply chain disruptions and inflation to get worse before they get better.


"Certainly a lot of the challenges that we’ve been experiencing this year will continue into next year," Buttigieg responded. "Look, part of what is happening isn’t just the supply side, it’s the demand side. Demand is off the charts. Retail sales are through the roof. And if you think about those images of ships, for example, waiting at anchor on the West Coast – every one of those ships is full of record amounts of goods that Americans are buying because demand is up because income is up because the president has successfully guided this economy out of the teeth of a terrifying recession."

"Our supply chains can’t keep up," he continued. "And of course, our supply chains, that’s a complicated system that is mostly in private hands, and rightly so. Our role is to be an honest broker, bring together all of the different the players there, secure commitments and get solutions that are going to make it easier."

FOX Business' Alicia Warren contributed to this report.