Scarbrough Group Weighs the Outlook

The Port of Los Angeles is turning the page for a new year. But despite optimistic goals, challenging circumstances remain. 

As 2021 arrived, many in the logistics industry hoped for a congestion reprieve. But historic import volumes, COVID-19 safety concerns, equipment availability, and many other factors continue to bog down port operations.  

Vessels by the Dozen at Anchor Outside San Pedro Bay 

Container ships face unprecedented wait times for space at LA-LB docks. As terminals contend with piles of containers, vessels have had to wait at anchor outside San Pedro Bay. According to the Los Angeles Times, 45 vessels were anchored offshore on Tuesday, Jan. 19. An advisory from Maersk said that vessels are waiting 10-14 days to berth. Though, our own experience has shown that most ships are waiting three to five days. 

COVID-19 Constraining Port Workforce 

Increasing coronavirus rates at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are making matters worse.  

Positive COVID-19 cases are growing among workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. As of Wednesday, January 20, nearly 700 dockworkers had contracted the virus. Per a report from the Los Angeles Times, hundreds more have taken leave related to the pandemic.  

The sharp reduction of workforce availability collides with an already dire situation at the ports. Import volume remains as high as ever, and there are few workers to handle it. The situation threatens to worsen existing delays.  

Equipment and Chassis Shortages Cause Inland Delays 

Delays at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are causing a domino effect further inland.  

Both chassis and truck drivers are in short supply at the port. Consequently, drayage congestion has worsened. Containers are taking longer to move from the maritime terminal to rail facilities. We have seen inland containers take up to 30 days to reach Chicago by rail from Los Angeles. 

Looking Ahead  

We do not expect to see a significant reprieve for either the port of Los Angeles or of Long Beach anytime soon. Typically, the port complex sees a moderate volume decrease around the time of the Chinese Lunar New Year. This year, however, blanked sailings out of Asia are fare below typical numbers. Reports that Chinese factories will not close across the board for the holiday have also come to light. As a result, we can expect to see consistently high import numbers coming into both Los Angeles and Long Beach in the coming months.  

Realistically, the situation around San Pedro Bay may not clear up until the U.S. economy fully opens and both imports and exports find a consistent flow. The Scarbrough Group is here to help your business navigate obstacles in the meantime. Contact your Scarbrough Representative for assistance and insight regarding the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.