We don’t need to recount for people the current state of affairs with hundreds of thousands of TEUs of containers unloaded or awaiting inland rail movement. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach delivered their full year reports and the figures for both are simultaneously unsurprising and mind-boggling.


Pandemic Impact Causes Historic Port Congestion

Los Angeles moved a total of 9.2 million TEU’s in 2020, the fourth largest annual total. The whipsaw of that figure was being down 19% in the first two quarters and up 50% in the final two quarters. Remarkably, Christmas week volumes were up 94% year-on-year for 2020 versus 2019. The entire State of the Port presentation from Executive Director Gene Seroka is available online.


For Long Beach, the story of famine and feast was no different. At 8.1 million TEU’s, 2020 was the busiest year on record. Combined, that means Los Angeles and Long Beach were responsible for 17.3 million TEU’s. Long Beach also reported an historic 104 cancelled sailings early in 2020 because of pandemic conditions, but a mind-bogglingly equal 104 unscheduled sailings later in the year.


All of this is happening while the City of Los Angeles is one of the worst American cities hit by the effect of the pandemic and it is slowly reaching dockworkers who possess a specialized set of skills necessary to operate gantry and straddle cranes that load and unload vessels and trains. 


Port Congestion Causes

The Los Angeles Times reports nearly 700 dockworkers have contracted COVID with hundreds more taking virus-related leaves, shrinking the pool of eligible workers to keep up the frantic pace.


The solution of throwing tonnage at the problem of more cargo than capacity has led to images such as this screen capture shown below from Marine Traffic (taken the morning of January 28th) where each green dot represents a containership – and notice how many are at anchor. (We’ll count them for you – there are 34 outside the port breakwater.)

California Port Congestion Marine Traffic

Image taken on the morning of January 28, 2021 from MarineTraffic.com


These containers ships backed up for days or weeks are now causing the same problem of too many shopping carts in a parking lot and not enough in the store. Carriers are now forced to blank sailings at origin because vessels haven’t returned. 


We’re even seeing that premium or guaranteed services on the eastbound transpacific are being cancelled or rescinded because carriers cannot expedite containers owing to the congestion in Southern California. 


Avoid Delays with Mach 1

At Mach 1, we are focused on doing everything in our power to expedite cargo for customers when containers have been unloaded and are available. Whether taking advantage of our transloading services or utilizing our own linehaul network offering standard and expedited service offerings, we are committed to working with our customers to prioritize cargo in their supply chains to ensure the most critical cargo receives priority treatment, up to and including utilizing our air charter desk to save valuable hours and days.

To learn more about what Mach 1 is doing to help shippers navigate these conditions, contact us today.


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