The severity of the U.S. west coast port congestion crisis is worsening. The current situation and capacity constraints are expected to continue until the first half of 2022. The prospect of carriers canceling sailings and rolling containers looms as terminal berths are maxed to the limit, with reportedly 47 vessels currently at anchor in Long Beach harbor with overflow parked in San Pedro Bay. This number is expected to increase substantially in the coming months of September and October.
This is a new all-time high of vessels anchored awaiting berthing at port. For some perspective, pre-Covid there was an average of 16 container ships at anchor or at berth with very few being at anchor. As of this past Sunday, a total of 76 ships were either at berth, anchor, or drifting. This year’s Peak Season has seen a spike in imports that are exacerbating the congestion delays. The trend is for volumes to continue to increase driven in part by the tsunami of cargo arriving from Asia as importers struggle to replenish and restock inventories in the face of rising sales activity. The ripple effect of the port congestion will continue to create challenges for rail, trucking, and inland rail ramp operations in the coming months.