Indicators Flashing Red for West Coast Ports, Christmas Outlook Looking Grim Ahead


August 24, 2021 • 2 minutes read

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Congestion is a problem all forwarders know is plaguing current supply chains, but with peak season and Christmas a few months away, everything is pointing to more bad news to come. 

The Port of Los Angeles has reached its limits and then some throughout these few months, now, it looks like the major port has hit its breaking point. Conditions for anchorages, terminal yards, railways, and warehouses are deteriorating across the board. Average waiting time and cargo dwell time has lengthened, contributing to more delays and congestions for the port. 

In July, container throughput for the Port of Los Angeles did not meet expectations with export volume dropping 28% year-on-year. Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, had predicted volumes of 950,000 TEU to 1 million TEU; however, July data showed a throughput volume of only 890,000 TEU. 

Import and export volumes also see major declines year-on-year compared to July data before the pandemic. July’s import volume (469,361 TEU) was lower than import volume (476,438 TEU)  from July of 2019 despite optimistic forecasts of 515,703 TEU by Horizon, a port forecasting tool. Export volume took an even worse beating with exports reaching only 91,440 TEU, a 28% decline year-on-year and the worst monthly volume data since February of 2005. 

In August, Seroka still predicted the Port of Los Angeles to have a total container throughput volume of 950,000 TEU, still a bit lower than the year before of 961,833 TEU. Right now, the Port of Los Angeles must solve its issue of increasing ship arrivals but insufficient terminal yard capacity to recover to previous levels of normalcy. Currently, the average waiting time for ships to berth is at 6.8 days, the average waiting time of containers at terminal is 5.3 days, and warehouse retention time is near its spring peak at 8.3 days. 

When Christmas rolls around the corner, Seroka sees more challenges ahead. 

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