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Backlog of container ships at Port of Long Beach impacting Central Coast supply chain

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A shortage of plumbing, home improvement and Trade supplies is impacting local industries up and down our coast, including Santa Barbara.

"The record we've had, we had one shower fixture that was guaranteed in three weeks. 12 weeks later, the clients actually sold their house and we still didn't have it," said Zasho Donner, a General Contractor.

Alan Bleecker, President and CEO of Capitol Hardware on Milpas Street, said major shipping delays are impacting his supply chain and Santa Barbara Plumbing, down the street.

"Cabinet hardware and plumbing fixtures are a major factor right now," said Bleecker. "Pre-COVID, it was pretty typical to take somewhere between one and two weeks and right now, it's taking between two and three months!"

Some cargo ships can hold up to 15,000 containers per boat (ABC7)

Both Bleecker and Donner attribute the delays to a rumored spread of COVID-19 at the Port of Long Beach. They say their sources told them that at one point, coronavirus cut the number of working longshoremen in half, causing a massive backlog of container ships off the coast and an unloading schedule that slowed to a snail's pace.

"I've heard that at any given time there's usually eight to 10 ships off the coast waiting to come in to the Long Beach Harbor," said Bleecker. "And a friend told me he saw (actually counted) over 130."

"Latest total I heard I think was 38 boats," Donner said. "Some of which have up to 15,000 containers per boat. Some of 'em they can unload in a day, sometimes it's a week to unload one boat. So, that just gives you an idea of the backlog."

Aluminum, brass, bronze and other metal products coming from overseas are affecting the local supply chain.

"Some of the suppliers are just having a hard time manufacturing," said Bleecker.

Local plumbers trying to get jobs done are also heavily impacted by shipment delays and a shortage of parts.

Jaime Maldonado, Head Plumber at Carroll Plumbing & Maintenance (Beth Farnsworth/KEYT)

"Normally when we have to order stuff, when our suppliers have them in stock, depending on the product, anywhere from a couple of days to the most, maybe two weeks," said Jaime Maldonado. "Now, because of what's going on and depending on the product and where it's coming from, we're looking from six to eight weeks to three months."

Maldonado, Head Plumber at Carroll Plumbing and Maintenance in Santa Barbara, said layoffs across the country linked to the COVID-19 pandemic cut down on the number of employees working at plumbing supply and distribution sites. The weather crisis weeks ago in Texas and other states added another layer of problems for the supply chain and deliveries, nationwide.

"Just getting water heaters again is a little hard. These water heaters come from the East Coast."

Some parts are on back-order or under a rationing, of sorts, including reverse osmosis filter systems.

"Normally when we order them we order about 10. I think they're limiting us now to just six," said Maldonado.

Classic poster hangs in Carroll Plumbing shop on De La Vina St.

Maldonado said if you also factor in materials coming from other countries like Italy, Japan and, China, that means certain supplies that normally take days or weeks to ship are now taking months. Maldonado said potassium, a popular product used with reverse osmosis water filters and imported from Canada and Zimbabwe, is completely unavailable.

That said, Carroll Plumbing staff is keeping most items well-stocked and their highly credentialed plumbers are busier than ever.

"We thought with this COVID thing it was going to be a little slow or slow us down," said Maldonado. "It actually seems like it's picked up."

Business is booming thanks to the stay-at-home orders and more wear and tear on home plumbing. And, those who can afford to upgrade their kitchens and bathrooms are doing just that.

Donner summed up what all three men are experiencing when it's comes to customer service.

"It's a lot of explaining to clients why we don't have it and it's not our fault."

"And what do they say, are they being pretty patient?" asked NewsChannel reporter Beth Farnsworth.

"Some of them. Not all of 'em," said Donner with a laugh.

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Beth Farnsworth

Beth Farnsworth is the evening anchor for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about Beth, click here

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