California port congestion: Number of waiting ships shatters all previous records
The California port congestion is worsening, with the number of container ships at anchor or drifting in San Pedro Bay off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach blowing through all previous records and rising by the day.
There were an all-time-high 65 container ships in the queue in San Pedro Bay on Thursday, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. Of those, a record 23 were forced to drift because anchorages were full.
There are 146 total ships in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Of the 146 vessels, 92 are container ships.
Theoretically, the numbers — already surreally high — could go a lot higher than this, Freight Waves reports. While designated anchorages are limited, the space for ships to safely drift offshore is not.
“There’s lots of ocean for drifting — there’s no limit,” Capt. Kip Loutit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, told American Shipper.
“Our usual VTS [Vessel Traffic Service] area is a 25-mile radius from Point Fermin by the entrance to Los Angeles, which gives a 50-mile diameter to drift ships. We could easily expand to a 40-mile radius, because we track them within that radius for air-quality reasons. That would give us an 80-mile diameter to drift ships,” said Loutit.
Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said during a press conference on Wednesday that container dwell time in the terminal “has reached its peak since the surge began” and is now six days, worsening from 5.3 days last month.
On-dock rail dwell time is 11.7 days, not far below the peak of 13.4. Street dwell time (outside the terminal) “is 8.5 days, nearing the all-time high” of 8.8 days, said Seroka. It has worsened from 8.3 days a month ago.
Last month, congestion at the ports reached an all-time high as disruptions related to the coronavirus pandemic continued to impact the industry. Changes in consumers' purchasing habits during the ongoing pandemic, labor shortages at the docks, limited warehouse space, and trucking issues once goods are ready to reach their final destinations are contributing to industry-wide shortages in the US.