SEATTLE, Washington: In early November, the Olive Bay was docked in the port of Everett, Washington. Below its decks was rolled steel bound for Vancouver, British Columbia, and piled on top were 181 cargo containers with the Amazon logo.
Some of the containers were empty, but the rest, according to customs data, contained laptop sleeves, Peppa Pig puppets, artificial Christmas trees and other items shipped directly from China.
By chartering the Olive Bay and dispatching it to a relatively quiet port not far from its home-base of Seattle, as well as to the port of Houston, Amazon avoided the shipping issues that stranded holiday inventories in Los Angeles and other ports.
These measures have given Amazon executives confidence that the company will have the inventory for another record-breaking holiday shopping season.
In addition to chartering ships, such as the Olive Bay, Amazon hired 150,000 seasonal workers in the U.S. to help pick, pack and ship items, while increasing pay and offering signing bonuses of up to $3,000.
For Amazon, which reinforced its reputation as a lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic, the holiday season is an opportunity to extend its dominance over rivals.
If it meets its promises to customers this year, this will be due to its chartered ships transporting products from factories in Asia, along with Amazon Air cargo jets flying throughout the U.S., Amazon-branded vans departing from hundreds of local delivery depots, and the hundreds of thousands of employees and contractors.
Merchants who sell products on Amazon's marketplace are aware of this logistical advantage.
"It is a one-stop-shop from Asia to Amazon," said Walter Gonzalez, CEO of Miami-based GOJA, which sells numerous products on Amazon, as reported by Bloomberg News.
In 2020, Amazon added chartered aircraft to its delivery options. Most air cargo is transported in the holds of passenger planes, but when COVID-19 restricted travel, Amazon moved proactively to replace lost space with cargo planes.
This effort complements Amazon Air, its fleet of 85 planes that move inventory between 40 airports in the U.S. and Germany.
Bernie Thompson, CEO of Plugable Technologies, used Amazon's air service to ship laptop docking stations and other electronics from China to the U.S., thus bypassing clogged ports.
Additionally, advertisements for jobs in the company's warehouses, promising $15 an hour and immediate health benefits, blanketed the internet and other media, while Amazon employees in online chat rooms stressed that they can earn more than their supervisors, thanks to plentiful overtime shifts.
Amazon can also utilize its Flex network of drivers who deliver packages in their own vehicles, earning $40 to $50 an hour, much higher than the usual rate of $18 an hour.
"Amazon will stick to its guns and get things to customers. It is going to be expensive but, in the long term, builds customer trust," said David Glick, a former Amazon logistics executive who is now chief technology officer at Seattle startup Flexe, according to Bloomberg News.