We are in the early days of peak shipping season yet the amount of port congestion in California has already reached a new record. We got a glimpse of how congested California ports, specifically the west coast, could get during the pandemic last year. This time around, the east coast is also facing some all time highs. A shipping consultant, Jon Monroe, warned “Be prepared. Picking up containers in Southern California will hit a new level of difficulty.”
“California congestion previously peaked in the first quarter. On Feb. 1, the Marine Exchange of Southern California reported an all-time-high 40 container ships at anchor in San Pedro Bay, awaiting berths in Los Angeles or Long Beach. The highest number of container ships in the entire port complex, including those at anchor and at berth — 67 — was set on Jan. 28”. All types of ships are arriving at the port with no location to situate themselves at. Not to mention that all regular and emergency anchorages are full. Due to all this congestion, some ships have no other option than to drift at sea and wait for an anchorage to open up.
There is temporary hope for this congestion due to the terminal closure in Ningbo, China. The terminal will close for six days due to a COVID exposure. As this terminal closes, it gives ports the slightest bit of time to play catch up as there are no incoming ships. However, as we have seen in June with the closure in Yantian, China, it was a brief moment where ports were able to catch a breath, but it worsened as those ships belatedly arrived and increased congestion once again.