• Evelina.Petrov

Los Angeles & Long Beach Ports see progress moving backlogged containers

Updated: Aug 12



The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach,

which last year became the focal point of the

massive supply-chain meltdown that left store

shelfs empty and cranked up inflation, have

been making much progress in recent months

addressing some of the most acute bottlenecks

on the docks, but many underlying problems persist

The backlog of containers with furniture, clothing, electronics and other imports that were piling up at the largest port complex outside Asia last summer and fall has been dwindling. The so-called dwell time a container sits around on average before it gets picked up has fallen by more than half from late October and there are no longer dozens of ships at anchor outside the ports waiting for weeks before they can berth and offload their cargo.

Those encouraging numbers are only part of the story, however, and no one at the ports is declaring victory yet, or seeing an end to the supply-chain disruptions caused by the unprecedented volume of imports from Asia

The ships that were waiting outside the ports last year are now spread out across the Pacific Ocean, slow steaming or drifting to avoid a similar traffic jam like the one that put the ports in the national spotlight in the fall and more than doubling the time it takes to reach Southern California. And although the stacks of containers with imported goods have been shrinking at the ports, the even larger stacks of empty containers that need to be sent back haven't budged much.


The unyielding pile-up of more than 100,000 empty containers at the ports in turn

creates a headache for truckers who need to offload their empty container before they

can pick up a loaded one at the terminals. "If I can't free up my chassis, I can't pull an

import off the terminal."


Much of the recent supply-chain disruptions are connected to the Covid pandemic,

which in the past two years has confined many Americans to their homes and has

caused a shift in spending habits. Rather than spending money on vacations or going

out, people have been buying lots of stuff for their homes, much of which comes by

ship from Asia.


That surge in imports combined with labor and equipment shortages in the trucking and

warehousing industries has put enormous strain on the movement of goods, causing delays

and price increases.


The latest Covid-related hiccup at the ports has come from the rapid spread of the

Omicron variant in Southern California this month that has temporarily depleted the

workforce at the ports by about 10%. Both Long Beach and Los Angeles set records last

year in the number of containers that moved through, predominantly driven by the

volume of imports. Gene Seroka, the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said at a

presentation Thursday that the port was heading for another year of challenges and

uncertainty.


One critical element to meet these challenges is better use of data, Seroka said. The port

last year started to provide accurate and up-to-the-minute data, such as real-time insights

in operational conditions, to help cargo owners and service providers to manage cargo and

free up terminal space, he said. But the country's entire logistics network needs to be

digitized in order to identify and address supply-chain issues as they happen, according to

Seroka.




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