In the Coastal city known as Seal Beach, neighboring long beach, there were over 20 ships spotted anchored and awaiting available berths at the Port of Los Angeles (POLA) as well as Port of Long Beach (POLB). These two ports come together to form the largest container port complex within the United States.
These two Ports handle one-third of the U.S. imports, operating as a primary source of imports from China as well. Both POLA and POLB have been experiencing heavy congestion for months in what is now being referred to as a ‘historic cargo surge’ in the industry. In February 2021, the coast guard has video showing over 60 ships at anchor in the San Pedro Bay at the same time.
POLA, one of the busiest ports in the U.S. reported that March 2021 was the strongest it had been in it’s 114-year history. Compared to last March when the pandemic first brought global trade to a halt, POLA made a 113% leap in the amount of Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) processed. This cargo surge marks the largest monthly year-over-year increase in POLA’s history as well as it’s busiest first quarter.
POLB also announced ‘as consumers continued to practice physical distancing guidelines and turned their computers into virtual shopping malls’ they have achieved their busiest month as well as their second-best quarter on record for this past March.
As businesses reopen and the economy strengthens, Americans are returning to the new normal. However, consumers are buying goods at a rapid rate. This is causing delays when it comes to delivery and availability of imported goods. Consumers are seen going without household items, groceries, as well as non-essential imported items.
The normal number of container ships at anchor are between zero and one, in the current situation, however, we see some ships waiting off shore for weeks before they are processed. Of the ships waiting to dock, half of them are what Marine Exchange calls “mega – container ships” these ships have a carrying capacity of 10,000 TEUs.
It takes 8,000 trucks to haul away cargo from a ship and when those trucks hit the road, there just aren’t enough available dockworkers to unload the next ship at port. Currently it takes between five and seven days to unload a ship whereas it used to take only two to three days.
The reason behind this kink in the supply chain is because of the longer dwell times in the harbor, overflowing container yards, tighter spaces in warehouse/distribution centers, and COVID-19 related dockworker absence.
Currently, there are not enough resources to handle the rate at which these products are coming in. We need more trucks, trains, or warehouses to store the product, otherwise millions of dollars worth of popular imports could continue to float in the Pacific even longer.
When asked how long he thought the surge may last, POLB’s Executive Director Mario Cordero gave a statement saying “Our best guess for the duration is early summer.” While other experts predict a lengthier duration lasting throughout the summer.