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Shipping backlog not related to foreign election interference

October 22, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: The reason for a backlog of ships at a port in Los Angeles is a Trump-era executive order, which blocked countries from trading with the United States if they had been caught conducting “foreign election interference.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The backlog is a result of unprecedented consumer demand, according to a spokesperson for the Port of Los Angeles. It reflects the challenges that come with restarting the economy after disruptions early in the pandemic.

THE FACTS: A logjam of ships waiting to dock and unload at a California port complex, the nation’s busiest, has interrupted the global supply chain in recent days, driving the Biden administration to allow the complex to operate 24 hours a day in an attempt to ease the clog.

A TikTok video that circulated widely across social media platforms this week falsely claimed the shipping congestion was somehow related to foreign election meddling.

A narrator in the video referred to Executive Order 13959, which former President Donald Trump signed in November 2020. The narrator claimed the order stopped any country guilty of election interference from trading with the U.S.

“So basically any country that’s been caught with foreign election interference can no longer legally trade with the U.S,” the narrator said. “That is why you’re seeing all these ships stuck out there. They can’t get into port because they’re no longer allowed to.”

The narrator’s statement misinterpreted the executive order, which prohibited certain U.S. investments in Chinese defense and surveillance technology companies, but didn’t bar China as a whole from trading with the U.S.

It also misrepresented the shipping backlog, which resulted from ongoing supply chain issues, not election security concerns.

Phillip Sanfield, a spokesperson for the Port of Los Angeles, said the reason for the shipping backlog is “the unprecedented demand for consumer goods,” which has been straining the port complex for months and continued into Friday.

“Everything from the ports to the container terminals to the railroads to the lack of truck drivers, overfilled warehouses and staffing at warehouses,” Sanfield said. “Every one of those nodes in the supply chain has been strained, and the result of that is a continued backlog at the L.A./Long Beach complex.”

The port complex has been dealing with challenges such as more ships than available berths to unload. As of Wednesday, Oct. 20, there were 60 ships in berth and 109 waiting to dock, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California.

There is also a shortage of trucks and drivers to ferry goods as ships are unloaded.

All of this reflects the complicated nature of restarting an economy after disruptions early in the pandemic. Imports dropped in the spring of 2020 as demand fell because of shutdowns caused by the pandemic. But demand surged this year as a result of strong economic growth and hiring.

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Associated Press writer Josh Boak contributed to this report from Baltimore.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.