Los Angeles, CA

Catastrophic supply chain backlogs are crippling the Los Angeles Port

Jano le Roux

Should Christmas be canceled? 58 container ships were waiting offshore when the White House said it was wading into the logistical snarl at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in an attempt to unclog the supply chain before Christmas.

San Pedro Bay’s hesitant flotilla has grown to 78 boats over a month later, with more on the way to satisfy Christmas shopping demand. However, the situation on the docks seems to be improving at a snail pace.

Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash

The towering heaps of containers left at the import terminals for days on end have been a major issue for the port complex, taking up space that might be used for fresh containers unloaded from ships offshore.

As a result, port authorities opted in late October to impose a new levy on containers that sit for more than six days if they are meant for rail transit or nine days if they are destined for trucks. Starting November 15, the ocean carrier firms that brought those languishing containers will be fined $100 for the first day they are late, $200 for the next, and so on — a rising fee that could swiftly reach tens of millions of dollars per day for the thousands of containers on the docks.

The price was meant to be a shot across the shipping corporations’ bows.

It seems to be making an impact with less than a week till the charge kicks in. At Long Beach, the number of containers subject to the fine has decreased by 26%, while the number of containers with a stay duration of more than nine days has decreased by 14% — a difference of almost 10,000 boxes on the docks.

The ocean carriers have also reacted by planning to deploy sweeper ships to collect the empty containers, which make up around 30% of the total number of boxes stacked up.

Clearing away those empty containers would help alleviate one of the primary bottlenecks that truck drivers claim prevent goods from being cleared out. Some shipping firms have refused to take empty containers back due to capacity constraints for months, leaving truck drivers trapped with a worthless box on their trailer chassis and unable to pick up a new container.

She used to be in the untenable scenario of having to set an appointment to drop off an empty container barely hours following an appointment to pick up fresh cargo. As a result of the mounting demand, several terminals have changed their regulations to enable vehicles to drop off an empty box whenever they pick up a new one.

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Los Angeles, CA

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