The Port of Los Angeles is looking to move more medical supplies through its supply chain in response to the coronavirus outbreak, while continuing to keep all goods moving, port officials said Thursday.

“We want to make sure that we are not only moving the essential goods and medical supplies, but that other commodities don’t clog up the system,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said.

Seroka said the port has been in communication with supply chain partners that need medical supplies and large companies that provide the materials, and he said the port is able to identify containers with the medical supplies and can expedite them through the network.

But Seroka also said it’s important to continue to ship other commodities to ensure the supply chain distributes essential goods proportionately.

Seroka said that all terminals at the shipyard continue to operate at about 80% of normal business, as the Harbor Area deals with the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak and prepares for the arrival of the 1,000-bed U.S. Navy hospital ship, USNS Mercy.

Mercy is scheduled to arrive Friday, but port officials said an exact arrival time has not been set.

The arrival of Mercy–which is a massive ship–is not expected to disrupt shipment operations, port officials said, and there will be a gradual transfer of patients to the ship from land-based hospitals as needed. Mercy will not house people who test positive or are showing symptoms of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

There have been no reported illnesses of longshore workers on the docks at the Port of Los Angeles and no terminals have had to be closed. Seroka said the port is “nimble enough” to redirect shipments throughout its 27 terminals and 270 berths in the event someone working there tests positive for the virus.

Seroka said the port ordered massive amounts of bleach and provided all terminals with cleaning supplies from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Seroka said the port is able to accurately track what shipments it will receive within 90 to 120 days, but orders for shipments planned after that have been thin at this time. The port has weathered two major events in the last year, he said, the first being the trade war between the U.S. and China that escalated last summer, followed by the pandemic.

“The cargo flow here at the nation’s largest port will not be impeded,” Seroka said. “The forecast isn’t so clear, but we will be seeing some uptick in cargo, as more and more of China’s factory community comes back online. The real question now is going to be what do the retail orders look like and how will those come in through our pipelines.”

Seroka said because people are not buying as much as they usually do, and there could be a lull in productivity coming in the next few months, but he said there could be a boost in production by autumn, once manufacturers increase operations as the coronavirus outbreak wanes.

EH

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