The trickle-down effect of container ship delays can be felt far and wide throughout the pool industry. A veritable conga line of cargo ships now sits in a holding pattern outside of Southern California’s busiest two ports. Last week the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach reported over 100 ships waiting to unload their containers. The news of this record-breaking supply chain crisis will come as no surprise to those in the pool industry who have been feeling the pain of delays all summer long.
The two southern California ports both account for roughly 40% of container ships entering the United States. The last year has seen an incredible surge in traffic come through Southern California. It was unusual for ships to wait more than a day for a berth at the Los Angeles complex prior to the outbreak of Covid-19. These days, locals in Southern California have become used to seeing the flotilla of container vessels moored offshore awaiting entry into port. Each day, new arriving cargo ships add to the growing backlog.
The story is the same all throughout the West Coast. The traffic bottleneck of container ships in San Francisco has gotten so bad that in June, the US Coast Guard had asked ships not to enter the bay at all.
A recent review of 351 ports around the world rated the Los Angeles complex #328 behind Tanzania. The neighboring Long Beach facility fared even worse coming in at #333 behind Turkey and Kenya. The frustration at the inefficiency to unload these ships has prompted President Biden to announce the ports will begin running 24/7 to keep up with demand. However, whether this will actually come to pass in time for the holiday season remains in question.
“It’s not a single lever we can pull today to open up all the gates,” said Gene Seroka, Executive Director for the Port of Los Angles, indicating that the exact timeline for changing to round the clock operations still remains unclear.Embed from Getty Images
How Delays Are Affecting The Pool Industry
News of cargo delays has prevailed throughout the media for months. It’s only within the last few weeks that the number jumped from 30 ships to 60, to now over 100 ships now waiting according to the most recent report. Anthony Reid, a pool builder in Los Angeles, has been waiting for materials for months and described the aggravation the situation is causing. “I’ve got 5 customers waiting for decking and everything is on a boat sitting 20 miles away,” said Reid, “I can wave at it but can’t touch it. It’s the most frustrating feeling imaginable to have to tell a homeowner who has been waiting for months they have to be patient. Truthfully, I have no idea when they are going to unload. I’ve been tap dancing so much on the phone these past few weeks, I feel like Sammy Davis Junior.”
Reid isn’t the only one struggling to meet commitments to clients, countless other builders are in a similar situation. Pomona-based builder Frank Druthers has been feeling the backlash on social media and Google. “Some customers are more understanding than others. We’re all relegated to waiting for these ships to unload,” said Druthers, “It’s an awful feeling being at the mercy of the ports but this is our reality right now.”
Adjusting to a New Reality of Rising Costs
Some builders have had more success than others at maintaining supply chains during the recent crisis. While some have been able to continue operating without much disruption, many others have had to adjust. The new norm seems to be paying higher than normal prices for shipping. In addition, the waiting time for receiving materials has gone up by months.
Paying More & Waiting Longer Is The New Norm
The average cost of shipping a container from Shanghai to Los Angeles is now $18,345. For those keeping score, that’s roughly six times higher than it was a year ago. One company recently got a quote from an ocean carrier for $32,000 for a single container. While rerouting may seem the best solution, that has gotten more expensive too. The average price for shipping a 40-foot container to the East Coast has gone up to $19,620.
What The Pool Industry Is Doing
During a Town Hall meeting, we co-hosted with the Talking Pools podcast, the subject of the ongoing logistic delays and cargo issues plaguing the industry came up more than once.
Alpha West representative, Korey Wax suggested that professionals that have established solid relationships with their distributors may have an easier time than those who haven’t. “Pool companies are relying on the relationships with individual branches,” said Wax, “The people that are really suffering are the guys that don’t have a relationship because they’ve been ordering off a web portal. When they go into a random branch, the manager and counter guys don’t recognize that individual so those supplies are magically not there because they are being reserved for their core customers.”
Lingering uncertainty about delivery dates is causing builders to settle for whatever alternative products are available. Out of sheer desperation, businesses are experimenting with new materials in lieu of products that have extended waiting times for delivery. Consequently, there are others that are willing to pay higher than premium prices to ensure that they have the materials on hand to accommodate demand.
Fake News – There Are Not 200,000 Cargo Ships Waiting To Be Unloaded
In a recent survey of builders, 90% reported being directly impacted by delays. However, in the same survey, 40% reported they believed the delays were inflated or overblown in the news. One false image that has been shared thousands of times on social media has definitely inflated the numbers. An image that went viral involved grossly misstated figures with misleading information. The image being circulated on Facebook said that there were over 200,000 cargo ships waiting to be unloaded in the U.S. This is obviously wildly inaccurate; there are less than 56,000 merchant vessels in the entire world, let alone 200,000 offshore.
Real News – There is a Container Crisis, Everyone Will Feel It This Holiday Season
Whether pool industry professionals believe they are directly affected or not, delays impacting prices is an absolute certainty. A wave of shipping consolidation over the past few decades means fewer alternatives. It is a fact that almost every single home in the United States depends on cargo that is arriving via the ports of Los Angeles or Long Beach. How much consumers ultimately pay is indirectly correlated to what is going on in the ports. Experts warn that consumers will almost undoubtedly see more out-of-stock notices, fewer deals, and longer delivery times this holiday season.
What Caused The Bottle Neck
The bottleneck this year is due to an increase in imports. Consumer demand has shifted away from services and toward goods and home improvements. This has directly affected businesses’ ability to replenish supplies that were depleted last year during the early months of the pandemic. While analysts predict the situation to improve sometime in 2022, experts say the situation is bound to continue to get worse before it begins to get better.
Why We Can’t Just Re-Route Everything
Some of the builders we spoke to asked why container ships couldn’t simply be rerouted to the Gulf or the East Coast. This has been suggested by many observers who believe that the easiest recourse is to reroute cargo. Pragmatically, rerouting to New York and New Jersey is completely out of the question, their ports appear to be just as inundated. In a recent press conference, Governor Ron DeSantis invited ships to reroute and offload in Florida, which has several ports.
While some shippers have done so, that alternative can be extremely costly. Ultimately, most of the material coming in on these vessels is coming from Asia. Rerouting to alternate ports isn’t so cut and dry and typically adds weeks of additional transit time. Ships that opt to take a longer route face more expensive transit costs than shipping to the West Coast. The logistical issues of transporting that cargo with trucks cross country also becomes an inevitable issue that ultimately adds additional costs and concerns.
Realistically, there may not be a magic bullet or easy solution to the problem California ports are facing. Staffing problems unloading and transporting cargo have snarled traffic to a crawl in both directions. The container shortage has got to the point where Maersk (one of the largest shipping companies) recently sent notices to trucking and logistics firms pleading for the return of containers.
Pool Contractors Gift New Pool To Grandma After Disaster
A group of pool contractors are the answer to one homeowners prayers. For years, Kitty Smitth, an 80-year old resident of Indianapolis, had dreamed of having an inground swimming pool for her 29 grandchildren and great-grandchildren to enjoy. Smith had just recently used her life savings to purchase a home and property in South Indianapolis that she was hoping would allow her to finally realize those dreams.
Smith acknowledges that the home she purchased needed a lot of work inside, but held out hope of enjoying the backyard with her family. For Smith and her grandchildren, the backyard pool meant a safe haven from the dangers of the pandemic that was sweeping across the country last summer.
“They were here, swimming and playing. I can’t tell you how great that was. This has just been my dream my whole life,” she told reporters.
Future summer dreams would be put to an end this February when a winter storm caused her pool to collapse into a heap of disintegrating concrete and collapsed fiberglass walls. Smith was horrified to find that her backyard pool had collapsed in on itself in the night. “My whole body just started going numb and shaking. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” she told reporters.
An engineering report was conducted to determine the cause of the failure. Analysis determined that a leak may have contributed to its collapse. A new pool cover, which had just been installed, combined with the inadequate water level in the pool may have contributed to adding stress on the walls of the pool.
To add insult to injury, Smith quickly found out that her homeowners insurance would not cover the damage. Despite being a customer of the same company for over 40 years and having a policy that includes the replacement cost of an inground pool, her insurance company refused to pay a cent. They claimed her policy excluded any leak in the structure of the pool.
Smith was faced with an impossible problem. The cost of installing a new inground pool would be at least $60,000 plus an additional $20,000 for hauling away the debris from the old pool that had collapsed. “I just put everything into my house”, Smith told reporters, indicating that she didn’t have the financial resources to rebuild the pool. She stated that she felt like her insurance company had left her high and dry.
Smith contacted investigative reporters and discussed her problem with them. The reporters shared her story with some folks they knew in the pool industry that could help lend a hand. Ultimately, eight separate Indiana companies came together headed up under Automatic Pool Covers owner, Michael Shebek. Shebek pooled his resources and network to help put together a team that will help rebuild Smith’s backyard.
- Crone Customs Pools – Project Lead / Permits
- Only Alpha Pool Products – Donating Steel Walls
- Pools of Fun – Donating and installing the liner. Provide the water to fill the pool.
- Modish Pools – Donating concrete and labor to rebuild the decking
- Hendrick Pool and Lawn Service – Donating plumbing work for the pool
- C Ray Pools – Donating plumbing and electrical work.
- Automatic Pool Covers – Donating a new pool cover and providing other help.
- Cover Care – Donating installation of the pool cover
What is truly incredible about this story is that although some of the companies on this list are competitors, they are all united in the single goal to help one local resident recover the usage of her pool.
Shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday, Smith was greeted with the surprise of a lifetime. The contractors who have agreed to rebuild her pool at zero cost, showed up at her house along with the 13news team to break the good news. Overwhelmed with emotion, Smith hugged them all and said “I don’t know your names but I know your hearts,” telling the contractors, “I love you.”
Smith will hopefully have a new pool to enjoy with her grandchildren this summer. The contractors have all assured her that the unsightly mess in her backyard will be removed and a new pool installed. The entire cost of the project is estimated to cost approximately $90,000.
“Just no words. There aren’t words big enough to thank everyone,” Smith said. “I’m just so thankful.”
Las Vegas Pool Builder Receives Top Industry Award
Joseph Anthony Vassallo, CBP of Paragon Pools Named PHTA 2021
Builder of the Year
(Las Vegas, NV) Nov 21, 2021 – Las Vegan Joseph Anthony Vassallo, Vice President & Chief Design Executive of Paragon Pools was named the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) 2021 Builder of the Year at the Awards ceremony held on Nov 15th in Dallas, Texas during the Pool, Spa, Patio & Deck Expo.
The PHTA annually recognizes prominent achievements and outstanding performers in the pool, spa and hot tub industry of which include the Individuals Awards and the International Awards of Excellence Design Awards.
The Builder of the Year Award is a peer-nominated award given to one PHTA builder member who has advanced the pool building profession through outstanding achievements and dedication to the industry.
Nominees must meet a strict set of criteria, including commitment to being a positive role model for the profession and peers, have a proven track record of meeting or exceeding industry standards in designing and building pools and spas, must have been employed in the pool, hot tub, or spa industry for at least five years, has actively participated with PHTA at a local or national level and must be a current employee of a PHTA member company in good standing.
Vassallo, who is often referred to as Joe Jr. began his career as a design apprentice in his teens (1989). He found enjoyment in the challenge of conceiving and developing pool and landscape plans to complement the home’s architecture and restrictive plot layouts while designing a stunning custom design for the homeowner.
Following high school, he studied architecture, marketing, and small business management. He has continued to further his professional and technical skills with PSI Leadership Seminars, Tom Hopkins Seminars, Auto CAD-2000, Structure Studios 3-D training, PHTA University curriculum, ART- Artistic Resources and Training, as well as CEU’s in industry business and technical topics.
In 2001, Vassallo joined his father in opening the family business, Paragon Pools in Las Vegas. As the Vice President, Vassallo has been instrumental in the success of the company and creating a high standard for design and construction for company projects earning an expansive list of international design awards and business accolades over the years, including Masters of Design Awards, International Awards of Excellence Design Awards, Aqua Choice Design Awards, Aqua 100 Hall of Fame, Nevada Business Journal Family Owned Business Honoree and Vegas Inc (formally InBusiness) 40 Under 40 Award to name a few.
In the nomination letter, Robert Blanda, CBP, PHTA Fellow, 2014 Builder of the Year submitted the following:
“Celebrating the 20th Anniversary Paragon Pools this year, Joseph Anthony Vassallo, CBP has had a long respected and celebrated career as a pool designer and builder in Las Vegas, NV.
He has been committed to ensuring and promoting professional development and the growth of the aquatic industry through a variety of activities including volunteering his time to serve on the Southern Nevada Chapter as well as the National Builders Education Committee (BEC) and Builders Manual Task Force…
Joe Jr. has always been very respectful of his fellow aquatic professionals. His high standards, design talents, knowledge of product and instincts are with true merit… He is eager to share his knowledge and elevate the skills of others. I and others have sought his advice on projects on numerous occasions. And his contributions to the 3rd and 4th edition of the Builders Manual was extremely valuable…
He is a fine example of what the BUILDER of the YEAR represents and has advanced the pool building profession through outstanding achievements and dedication to the industry.”
Established in 2007, the PHTA Builder of Year Award is previously known as the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) Certified Building Professional (CBP) of the Year Award. Vassallo joins a short list of only 17 honorees that span the United States, including his father, Joseph Michael Vassallo, CBP who received the award in 2012.
The Vassallo’s are the only father and son to both receive the distinguished accolade. The duo also received an International Awards of Excellence Design Award for their unique design in the category of – Spa built in conjunction with a pool.
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ABOUT PARAGON POOLS Paragon Pools is an award-winning, custom, in-ground swimming pool and spa design/build construction company in Las Vegas, Nevada. The contractor specializes in new construction and major renovations of residential and commercial projects. Paragon Pools has received numerous accolades worldwide for its unique designs, trend setting applications and renovation projects. Their client list includes major hotels, casino moguls, sports stars, and celebrities. The company has been showcased in numerous TV, Cable and news profiles and featured on HGTV.com Designers Showcase. https://www.paragonpoolslv.com
Pool Industry Mourns The Loss of Grant Smith & Bob Lowry
The pool industry lost two of it’s best and brightest this week and was saddened to learn of the passing of widely respected professionals, Grant Smith and Bob Lowry.
This week many in the industry were gathering for the PSP Deck Expo in Dallas, TX. Colleagues were meeting after years of being separated by the pandemic and had been enjoying the opportunity to reconnect. The mood and energy were high at the Omni Convention Center. Pool Magazine editorial staff got to town early to help set up our own booth and cover some of the events being presented.
We were debuting our first printed issue of Pool Magazine, and I was personally excited to meet some of the industry professionals that I had been able to connect with virtually through social media. Over the past year, I had been corresponding with Grant Smith and engaging with him to become a contributor for our new publication. After a few easy-going conversations, Smith agreed to join our roster of op-editorialists.
I had published several of his op-ed pieces over the last year and was eager to get to meet him face to face and thank him for being a contributor. Shaking his hand and telling him how much I appreciated him being a part of our publication was something I was really looking forward to doing. I made sure to get one of his best op-eds in our first issue and wanted to hand it to him personally. Unfortunately, that never got to happen. Like many who got the sad news this week, I was on the expo floor when I found out that Grant Smith had suddenly and unexpectedly passed at the age of 50 years old.
His opinions were widely respected and from time to time would generate controversy on social media. Smith frequently inspired the type of intelligent debate that is the very lifeblood of our industry. A mentor and educator, he was eager to offer his expertise and help in any way he could. Evidently, that’s just the kind of person he was. The sort that have no compunction of giving their time and energy to help complete strangers.
For me, it was incredibly telling of the type of person he was and exemplified exactly what I’ve come to expect from those that lead our industry from the front. It should be of no shock to anyone that Smith was a United States Marine, they instill that type of character into their very best.
Bob Lowry, was equally greatly admired and respected throughout the industry. Known as a chemical service guru, Lowry was a thought leader on many issues pertaining to pool service. Many in the industry credit him with helping guide their career path and shape their approach towards water management. The author of a multitude of pool and spa water chemistry books, IPSSA manuals, and publisher of hundreds of technical articles and white papers over a 45 year span in the industry. He passed away in Lima, Peru on November, 17th after a long illness.
The news of the passing of both of these great educators in our industry leaves a hole in many of the hearts that knew and respected both of these incredibly warm and generous individuals. They will both be greatly missed.
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