Long Beach Port Officials Address Cargo Backlog Causes, Potential Solutions

The Long Beach Container Terminal at the Port of Long Beach. Photo via POLB.

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero and Deputy Executive Director Noel Hacegaba this week said that the port was during everything it could, including holding talks with stakeholders such as terminal and warehouse operators, to increase the port’s push toward 24/7 operations.

The comments came during an Oct. 27 press conference to talk about congestion at Long Beach and the adjoining Port of Los Angeles, and measures that both San Pedro Bay ports have taken to relieve some of the backlog.

During normal times, the number of containerships at anchor in the San Pedro Bay is zero. But as of Oct. 27, there were 74 containerships off the coast waiting to be berthed at either the Long Beach or Los Angeles ports, Cordero said.

He added that the record high was reached this past Sunday with 80 containerships at anchor.

Among the reasons for the huge influx of containers, he explained, were greater household spending brought about by the global pandemic that’s resulted in more people working from home.

“Total retail sales through August were up 21% compared to last year,” he said. “Holiday online shopping this year is expected to be up 11-to-16% over last year. This has created a surge in cargo.”

Reasons he cited for the congestion include issues in China, where most of the goods being sent through the Southern California ports originate.

“Some major terminals in China were shut down earlier this year for several days due to the (COVID-19) outbreak there. That contributed to the backlog of ships around the globe,” he explained, adding that another factor was that due to an energy shortage, many factories in China have faced power cuts.

“The reduced production is also slowing down the supply chain,” he said.

Additionally, the port executives acknowledged a shortage of chassis, and a need for more truck drivers and warehouse workers, as well as additional hours of operation at warehouses.

These things and more played a part regarding why the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports are, beginning Nov. 1, instituting surcharges on import cargo that lingers on marine terminals.

“The terminals are running out of space,” Cordero said. “We need to make room in our terminals for the approximately 530,000 container units sitting on those waiting ships.”

By Karen Robes Meeks