August marks the start of “retail restocking season” – that is, a period of surging maritime imports into the U.S. to prepare retailers for the coming holiday seasons. And this year, American ports are heading into their busiest – and perhaps most backed-up – peak season yet.
U.S. ports have faced significant congestion since November 2020, with cargo waiting upward of one week before being able to offload. The bottleneck is partially a result of the Covid-19 pandemic: ports and logistics chains faced worker shortages despite a swell in online and in-person shopping, resulting in an “unprecedented boom in containerized imports.” The influx has been compared to a “tsunami” for the global shipping industry.
But the freight storm is bringing more than holiday goodies and backlogs to our ports: ocean shipping imports toxic emissions, air pollution, and deadly risks to port community health.
While Big Retailers like Amazon have made many climate pledges, their green efforts don’t extend to the seas. As unveiled in our Shady Ships report, the world’s largest retail companies continue to move their goods on heavily polluting ships powered by the world’s dirtiest fuels. Just fifteen companies —especially number one polluter Walmart— produce as much climate pollution as the energy needed to power 1.5 million American homes simply by importing their goods to the United States. They also dumped out 7x more air pollution (sulfur oxide emissions) than all vehicles in the U.S. combined – that’s 2 billion trucks and cars!
The pollution impacts of dirty ocean shipping hit hardest in California. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach manage nearly 40% of all U.S. container imports alone! According to California’s chief climate and air regulator, the surge in cargo ships at ports has led to shocking levels of air pollution from ships linked to premature mortality, cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, and ER visits for asthma. The brunt of dirty shipping’s pollution is borne by “frontline” and “fenceline” port communities, who are largely working-class communities of color.
So, what’s the bottom line? Peak shipping season + port backlogs – Big Retail getting ships off fossil fuels = surging pollution & deadly health risks.
This retail restocking season, we’re saying enough. Join us this month in calling on Big Retail to end their ocean pollution. Sign our petition and join us on social media on August 3rd calling on Amazon, Walmart, Target, and IKEA to #AbandonDirtyShips and commit to #ShipItZero by 2030.