While there was hope towards the end of October that the port congestion in Southern California had turned a corner, it was only fleeting; the number of ships still waiting to port is still at a record high. The time that ships are stuck offshore continues to lengthen, and the simple fact is that there are too many vessels arriving with too much cargo for terminals, trucks, warehouses, and trains to handle.
As of November 1st, 2021, over 100 ships were waiting outside the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. This port crisis has the entire shipping world wondering is there an end in sight?
The shipping gridlock that has been gripping our ports for more than a year is affecting more than just our economy:
- It has impacted supply chains, depriving retailers and businesses of inventories and goods that they need for the holiday season.
- It is causing US manufacturing delays and halts in production.
- It is a major factor driving up prices for consumers across the country, stoking the worst inflation in decades.
Enormous Value Stuck Offshore
According to data from the Marine Exchange, the container ships that were waiting offshore the ports in late October had a combined capacity of 580,619 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). This is 24% more than the Port of Los Angeles imported during the entire month of September and 69% more than both the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach imports combined.
So how much cargo value is out there floating on the ocean? While the imports and goods that are in each shipping container vary greatly, the cargo can be worth a few thousand dollars to several hundred thousand dollars. But if we look at Port Los Angeles’ stats, we get a little bit of insight.
- The total customs value in 2020 was $211.9 billion
- This equates to around $43,899 per import TEU (twenty-foot equivalent)
These amounts suggest that with the number of ships currently waiting off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach that the cargo could at least be worth around $25.5 billion which equates to more than the annual revenue of McDonald’s and or the GDP of Iceland.
Imports Stuck on Ships for a Month
The wait time from anchorage to berth in the Port of Los Angeles rose to an all-time high of 13.2 days in late October—up 67% from the beginning of September.
But keep in mind, the average wait time does not tell the full story. Ships in San Pedro Bay have been sitting and waiting for more than twice that long.
Many of the vessels that still have no berth assignments are operated by Chinese companies such as BAL Container Line that entered the trans-Pacific market for the first time this year. Some of the ships that are stuck in the queue have been chartered at such high rates, which begs the question, did the charterers account for such lengthy delays?
A United States manufacturer currently has over 100 containers of goods trapped aboard a Chinese-owned container ship that has been waiting offshore for over six weeks. It has yet to obtain a berth assignment and the trapped goods are starting to impact production.
Among the Chinese ships with no berth assignments in late October were the following:
- Martinique: waiting since 9/9
- BAL Peace: waiting since 9/25
- S Santiago: waiting since 9/25, finally had a berth late Oct.
Could This Crisis Have Been Avoided?
No one could have foreseen such a huge surge in demand, especially after so many processes were disrupted during the pandemic. But the sight of ships off the coast of California is leading to wider debates about the state of our supply chains across America, and how we can improve for the future.
A White House task force has been set forth to try to ease bottlenecks, and the Port of Los Angeles is now open 24/7 to help improve congestion, but industry experts don’t expect the shipping crisis to let up any time soon. We can move the containers around, but due to a driver shortage, we don’t have truckers who can haul the goods fast enough.
Securing Onsite Storage
While there is a current shipping container shortage, we have plenty of 40′ and one-trip containers on hand that we can modify to fit your unique needs! We can cut them to suit your custom sizing requirements or turn a portion into a ground-level office for your business. We look forward to finding the right shipping container for you.