There are forty-four container ships waiting to dock and be unloaded outside California’s southern ports. This is an increase of the pre-pandemic record of forty ships that once lined up outside these ports for unloading. In total, Californian ports account for approximately one-third of American imports and are an important point of trade between the United States and China.
Reason for the Line Ups
The long lineup of container ships sitting in Californian waters waiting to be unloaded is a result of pandemic-related disruptions, increased shopping traffic, and labour shortages. In previous times, container ships would wait for one or two days to enter these ports and be unloaded. Today, wait times have increased to just under 8 days.
The New Economy
According to Kip Louttit, Executive Director, Marine Exchange of Southern California, “part of the problem is the (new) ships are double or triple the size of the ships we were seeing 10 or 15 years ago.” This means they take longer to dock and unload.” These container ships also require there to be more trucks and trains available to transport the goods away from the port once they are unloaded. These extra-large container ships also require more warehouse and storage options near the ports to store cargo.
Dollar Tree, CEO, Michael Witynski spoke of the challenges of overseas shipping in the Covid-19 era. Witynski recounted a time when a container ship was denied entry into China (in 2020) because a crew member tested positive for Covid-19. This required the container ship to return to Indonesia where it had to change out its entire crew before it could sail back into China. In total, the trip was delayed by two months.
Returning to Normal
Shipping experts expect that the container shipping industry will return to normal by 2023. This is when many new container ships, currently in the building phase, are scheduled for completion. Regardless of the long line of container ships waiting to be unloaded in Californian ports, the Marine Exchange of Southern California maintains that both the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are safe, secure, and reliable sources of moving goods into the US. That due to Covid-19 protocols in place around the world, combined with record levels of cargo being shipped, that these slowdowns are to be expected, albeit temporarily over the long term.
Elaine Allan, BA, MBA
Technology and Business Blogger
#Vancouver, BC, Canada