A Record Number Of Cargo Ships Are Stuck Outside Of California As Ports Can't Keep Up

Shipping delays and shortages will continue as America's supply chain continues to fail

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Just off Southern California’s coast is a traffic jam of colossal proportions. Dozens of ships are waiting up to weeks to offload cargo in Los Angeles and Long Beach while the ports are inundated with containers of goods needing to be taken to their final destinations.

The latest shipping headache has more than 60 ships sitting idle off of the coast of Southern California, reports the Wall Street Journal. Wait times For unloading are stretching as long as three weeks.

Businesses trying to ramp up for the upcoming holiday season are running into an annoying shipping bottleneck. Don’t expect Christmas to be cheap this year, reports CNN, as decoration prices are soaring due to shipping costs. Remember store limits on toilet paper? That’s back, too, as Costco can’t get enough paper towels and toilet paper in stock.


Part of the problem is that while Southern California’s ports are responsible for more than a quarter of America’s imports, they don’t operate 24/7. It’s normal for ports around the world to operate round-the-clock but Long Beach and Los Angeles shutter for hours throughout the work week and close entirely on Sundays.

And it seems like nobody can agree on who is at fault for the lengthy delays, from the Wall Street Journal:

Participants in each link in the U.S. chain—shipping lines, port workers, truckers, warehouse operators, railways and retailers—blame others for the imbalances and disagree on whether 24/7 operations will help them catch up. All of them are struggling with a shortage of workers.


Long Beach plans on operating 24 hours a day from Monday to Thursday while Los Angeles will expand its weekend gate hours. But even then, there may not be enough trucks available to pick up cargo:

Truck drivers often don’t show up at scheduled appointments to pick up boxes at the inundated container yards to make space for the next load to come in, say shipping and port executives. Truckers blame terminal congestion, saying delays at one appointment can cause them to miss the next, and that shipping lines aren’t doing enough to clear out the towers of empty containers taking up space at the docks.


There is a storage issue, too. According to the Wall Street Journal report, about 98 percent of the warehouses in Southern California are filled to the brim. Executive director of the larger Port of Los Angeles, Gene Seroka, says that there is at minimum 25 percent less storage space than needed. Some shippers are using containers at port as storage units, adding to the congestion.

Southern California isn’t alone. The overworked supply chain has also caused about two dozen ships to pile up off of the coasts of New York and New Jersey, reports Business Insider.


Port authorities believe that the clogs can be cleared out if every part of the supply chain operates 24/7 and hope that the updating operating hours will help relieve congestion.