Port Delays Leave Cargo Ships Stranded off U.S. Pacific Gateways

More than 40 cargo ships with tens of thousands of containers on board are expected to arrive at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach this week, another sign of the continuing backlog that is holding back U.S. importers at the country’s largest trade gateway.

The increase in shipments, which began in late summer and increased over the holidays, continued into the new year as retailers and manufacturers sought to replenish stocks depleted during the early stages of the Covid 19 pandemic. Neighboring ports in Southern California, which together handle more than a third of all containers entering the United States, are registering record numbers of boxes as port workers struggle to cope with the growing number of coronavirus cases in the state.

Huge amounts of medical supplies continue to arrive, as well as furniture, appliances, building materials, landscaping, hot tubs and everything else related to outdoor recreation, said Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach. Americans unaffected by Covid will continue to spend, and the increase could continue until late spring.

The backlog has meant that many retailers have had to wait weeks for goods stuck on ships at sea or in ports, which has particularly affected small and medium-sized second-hand shops.

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We’ve had all kinds of delivery problems over the past year that have affected us directly, says Abby Durkin, owner of Palmer & Purchase, a women’s clothing and accessories store in Palmer. Paradise, New York. – We had a popular sweater that we had sold in advance from a Los Angeles seller who had imported it from China, and with these shortages it never made it to ….. ended up. He’s been very successful.

Retailer Big Lots Inc. said in a conference call Wednesday that backlogs and extra storage costs for importing containers stuck at ports are a major challenge to the company’s profitability.

The peak season for ocean liners usually begins in late August, when Western retailers begin restocking for the end of the year, and ends in November, before virtually stopping for the New Year in February, when Chinese factories close for about 10 days.

But this year’s imports began in early summer, when the engine of Chinese exports began to rev up and Western retailers decided to restock after the spring coronavirus sightings.

Los Angeles and Long Beach handled 909,021 incoming containers in October, more than double the number handled in March when the pandemic began. The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, which represents ship operators serving the West Coast, said about a quarter of all inbound containers waited more than five days to be delivered to customers at the docks in October and November, rising from 2 percent to 4 percent in the first half of 2020.

We’re all very busy, whether we’re warehouse workers, truck drivers or long-haul truckers, he said.

Gene Serock,

Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles. Warehouses are overcrowded and have staffing problems due to social exclusion, which also affects road transport and marinas.

Employers at port terminals conduct extensive Covid testing, officials say, and take a one-hour break between daily shifts to disinfect equipment. At the same time, more and more employees are becoming ill.

We are very concerned about the positive numbers we are seeing in the port area, said Mr. Cordero of the Port of Long Beach. Last week, two people died on the San Pedro property. We are concerned about the staff that will be available through Covid in the future.

The Southern California Maritime Exchange, which monitors shipping traffic, said 48 ships, including 33 container ships, were waiting to dock at the two ports on Monday. The waiting time for docking can be from an average of two days or less to more than five days, with more than 20 ships waiting to dock in each port, when normally there are no ports.

The cargo fleet now competes with the fleet stationed in California during the 2014 work stoppage, when reinforcements from Seattle to Long Beach hit the U.S. economy.

The shipping industry currently expects the rise to continue until next month’s Chinese New Year, as China tries to maintain the momentum of its recovering economy.

It’s not a typical Chinese New Year because demand is still crazy, said a broker in Singapore.

Last week, the National Retail Federation said it expected imports to continue to rise this year due to a shortage of transport capacity and equipment, including chassis and empty containers. Nor do the port authorities see relief on the horizon.

The ships expected to dock in Los Angeles by the first week of March will be very strong and increase year by year, Seroka said. We are in a pandemic buying frenzy.

Write to Costas Paris at [email protected]

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