Ships at the Los Angeles Ports See Record Backlog

Ships await to be offloaded in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Jan. 12, 2021. (John Fredricks/  Pezou)

LOS ANGELES— two busiest container ports in the United States are experiencing their largest backlogs of ships on record, with about 60 vessels waiting to enter the ports Tuesday.

Port of Los Angeles spokesperson Phillip Sanfield said the backlog can be attributed to an unprecedented buying surge that is straining the supply chain.

“[This is] the busiest year any western hemisphere port has had,” Sanfield told Pezou.

Stanfield said the buying surge started in the summer of 2020. Due to the pandemic, he said people shifted their purchasing behaviors from the service industry to consumer goods.

He said that although the pandemic has eased, the buying surge has not slowed down.

Currently, there are a quarter-million shipping containers waiting to enter the ports, he said.

That led to a 60 to 70 percent increase in the amount of cargo that is being offboarded every day, he added.

Together, the ports move about a third of all cargo that enters the country annually, as well as about a third of all exports.

ports are working with a White House task force to expedite the time it takes consumers to receive goods and to expand opportunities for U.S. exporters.

Last month, the ports announced new measures to improve freight movement and reduce delays, including expanded truck pickup and return hours.

Additionally, the Port of Long Beach expanded its working hours into the night while Los Angeles increased its weekend gate hours as a pilot program.

Both changes are a first step in reaching a 24/7 supply chain.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino, who represents San Pedro, introduced a recent motion seeking a report on the backlog and its environmental impacts.

motion was scheduled for a vote Tuesday, but it was delayed. It is not clear when the motion will be heard again.

re are currently dozens of cargo ships docked off the coast of Southern California, waiting for available berths at the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, which, collectively, handle 40 percent of the nation’s imports, according to Buscaino’s motion.

“This vessel traffic jam has the potential to negatively impact air quality for local communities, further exacerbate supply chain disruptions, and tarnish the Port’s reputation with retailers and Shippers,” Buscaino wrote.

Pezou : Ships at the Los Angeles Ports See Record Backlog