California port backlog will not clear until well into 2022, experts say
Despite efforts to clear out the landside of the U.S.’s busiest import gateway, the ports face a major challenge on the waterside with unloading, trucking, and railing out cargo from over 100 container ships that were scheduled to arrive through mid-December but are queueing in some cases more than 150 miles off the coast, JOC reports.
According to logistics experts, the current backlog of containers stemming from an historic import surge in the United States will take until mid-2022 to clear out.
Chris Chase, business development director for the Port of Los Angeles, told the audience at the Northeast Trade and Transportation Conference last week that the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are expected to handle 3 million more containers in 2021 than they did in 2020.
That total would be much higher, he said, if all the containers on ships that are currently at anchor or slow steaming further off the California coast were to be counted.
“This is different, this is an unrelenting flow of cargo,” Chase told the audience at the event, sponsored by the Coalition of New England Companies for Trade. “This unrelenting flow has changed how we do things and has implications up and down the supply chain.
“Every single piece of the supply chain has a responsibility to do something different, to try something different and new,” he added. “The status quo is not working.”
Chase said that a busy month for Los Angeles used to be when it handled about 800,000 containers. During 2021, the port has been handling over 900,000 on average per month, he said. The effect has been that its terminals are jammed, and container delivery has slowed.
“We were thrown a curveball that, even in any of our wildest dreams, we never predicted that these kinds of things would be happening with this kind of volume,” said Chase.