Record 60 cargo ships wait to unload at busiest U.S. port complex

·2 min read

By Lisa Baertlein

LOS ANGELES, Sept 15 (Reuters) - A record 60 container vessels are at anchor or adrift in the San Pedro Bay, waiting to be unloaded at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach seaports and another 20 are due to arrive in coming days, a port executive said on Wednesday.

With the pandemic still raging around the world, U.S. consumers have not fully resumed previous spending on restaurants and travel, yet they continue to splurge on goods ranging from appliances and home exercise equipment to sweatpants and toys.

Volume at the Port of Los Angeles - the busiest U.S. gateway for trade with Asia - is up 30.3% so far this calendar year.

The global supply chain has been reeling due to overwhelming demand for cargo;, temporary COVID-19 closures of ports and factories in Asia; shortages of shipping containers and key products like resin and computer chips; and severe weather. Transportation costs have spiked, exacerbating delays and fueling product shortages.

"Disruptions continue at every node in the supply chain," said Gene Seroka, executive director at the Port of Los Angeles.

Containers are waiting on Port of Los Angeles docks a peak of six days for truck pickup, Seroka said. Containers on chassis are waiting 8.5 days "on the street" for warehouse space or to be returned empty to the port. There are nearly 8,000 containers ready to be whisked away by train, with the wait clocking in at 11.7 days, Seroka said.

Ports around the United States are opening gates on weekends to give truckers more time to pick up goods - and companies like Walmart Inc are investing millions of dollars to beef up their near-port operations.

August cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles nearly matched the year-earlier surge, when businesses raced to restock pandemic-depleted supplies and retailers rushed in holiday goods.

Total volume at the Port of Los Angeles reached 954,377 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) in August, down 0.8% from a year earlier, port authorities said. Loaded imports were down 5.9%, at 485,672 TEU.

The port sent 367,413 TEU of empty containers to factories in China and elsewhere - a 17% rise from last year. That far outstripped loaded exports which fell 22.9% to 101,292 TEU. (Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio)

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