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A flotilla of almost a dozen cargo vessels sits anchored just south of Los Angeles this weekend, waiting for berth space. Around the twin ports of L.A. and Long Beach, shipping containers are already stacked five and six high -- the maximum the fire department will allow.

“Anywhere you go, there are just containers everywhere,” said Weston LaBar, CEO of the Harbor Trucking Association, an industry group in Long Beach representing carriers who haul the steel boxes to and from the ports. “It’s maddening.”

The perfect storm is swamping the busiest gateway to the U.S. economy heading into the holiday season: Labor and equipment shortages are colliding with the still-healthy purchasing power of American consumers — all complicated by a worsening pandemic that’s making workers and employers extra-tentative. Truckers are struggling to keep up with the wave of record imports.
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