A record-breaking 44 cargo ships await entry into the two largest ports off the coast of California. The Marine Exchange of Southern California reportedly said that is the highest number to be recorded since the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has started.
The queue has resulted from increasing labor shortage, disruptions, and holiday-shopping surges. Port of Los Angeles data has shown that the ships’ average wait time has increased to about 7.6 days. The usual number of container vessels at anchor is zero to one.
California ports in Los Angeles (LA) and Long Beach (LB) account for nearly one-third of the total US imports. The ports operate as a primary source of imports from China. These have experienced extreme congestion throughout the ongoing pandemic.
Part of the problem is the fact that vessels now are triple or double the size of ships that would be built about 10 or 15 years back. They take longer to unload. There is a need for more trucks, trains, warehouses to stock up the cargo.
While freight ships are forced to anchor as they await berth space, firms that import and export goods from and to Asia continue to experience shipping delays.
This comes during one of the most crucial months for US-China trade relations, as retailers buy ahead of time to prevent unnecessary delays before China’s Golden Week (October) and the US holidays.
From Shanghai to Chicago, the transit times had more than doubled to nearly 73 days from 35 days. It is currently taking longer than what used to happen in previous years owing to port congestions, delays in container handling, and several other factors.
Industry experts estimate that the ocean shipping capacity will normalize before 2023 when new vessels come online.
Despite record levels of ships in port and at anchor and in drift areas, the Marine Transportation System in both LA and LB remains reliable, safe, secure, and ecologically sound, even though it is not as efficient as it should ideally have been due to COVID protocols, trying times, and record levels of cargo.