The head of one of the two ports in the U.S.’s busiest maritime gateway said he expects congestion that has caused upheaval throughout supply chains to improve in about six months’ time.
Bottlenecks should “hopefully” start easing after the December holidays and the Lunar New Year in February, when Chinese factories and ports reduce activity for the festival, Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said in a virtual briefing Thursday.
“It’s a global issue and progress is being made,” he said. “In my view, hopefully within six months there will be some sense of normalcy, but again, let’s keep in mind, there’s one overriding factor that we have to look at — the impact of the virus.”
Unprecedented consumer demand — coupled with a shortage of truck drivers and warehouse workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic — has led to long queues for ships and piles of containers full of goods lingering at U.S. ports.
Despite the setback, Long Beach dockworkers and terminal operators processed 8.6 million containers from January to November — about 500,000 more than all of 2020, Cordero said. The port is set to move a record of more than 9 million container units this year, he said.
The line of ships waiting to enter the Los Angeles and Long Beach port complex, known as San Pedro Bay, is longer than ever, with 96 container vessels waiting to be offloaded as of Wednesday.
A new queuing system took effect Nov. 16, requiring ships to inform the port when they are departing from Asia and keeping more ships away from southern California’s coastline. The strategy means fewer vessels are waiting in the immediate air-quality basin, resulting in fewer harmful emissions, Cordero said.
“The best way to reduce the emissions is to reduce the number of ships at anchor,” Cordero said. “The ships are still out there waiting, but they’re not waiting in our air-quality basin, so they are not contributing to our local air-quality issues.”
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