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
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