Walmart chartering its own ships to break supply chain bottlenecks

Photo (c) Thierry Dosogne - Getty Images

The retailer is working to increase supplies before the holidays

Nagging supply chain issues have limited imports of a wide range of products, forcing consumer goods to compete for space with industrial and commercial products in the nation’s ports.

Frustrated with backups that don’t seem to have an end, Walmart has begun chartering its own cargo ships. The first vessels are currently moving across the ocean with cargos of Paw Patrol Movie Towers, Batmobile Transformers, and Baby Alive Lulu Achoo dolls.

"Chartering vessels is just one example of investments we've made to move products as quickly as possible," Joe Metzger, U.S. executive vice president of supply-chain operations at Walmart, told Reuters.

Consumers struggle to find out-of-stock items

Supply chain issues have resulted in large gaps in store shelves as a wide variety of consumer products are in short supply. Some shortages are caused by a lack of raw materials that have limited production. Other shortages are the result of a product’s popularity.

Ed, of Moorpark, Calif., said he ordered a toy to be delivered to his grandson as a gift for starting kindergarten. He said the toy was available one day but not the next.

“I called Walmart the night before to make sure all okay,” Ed wrote in a ConsumerAffairs review. “Talked to Supv, he said all good. Ready to go. Got email at 2:01 am stating out of stock. What happened from the night before?”

Kev, of Port Richey, Fla., went from Walmart to Walmart in his area looking for controllers for his PS4 video game system. He said he found a store online that had a couple in stock, but they were gone by the time he got there. He said he thought he was having the same experience at the Spring Hill Walmart until Stephanie, the manager, intervened.

“After 15 min she came back with a whole cart fully stacked with new shipment boxes with all sorts of products but she thought she had seen the items I was looking for,” Kevin wrote in his review. “Yes she was right. Much appreciated to save me time and more hustle finding those **** PS4 controllers.”

Walmart looks to alleviate shortages

By enlisting its own fleet of ships, Walmart hopes to make it easier to alleviate shortages and to meet consumers’ needs. The challenge, however, may be finding places to unload. 

The Marine Exchange of Southern California reports that more than 60 container ships carrying a wide range of consumer products are stuck outside Los Angeles and Long Beach terminals and are waiting for space to unload.

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