Logjam at San Pedro Bay ports back to a low level

The number of container ships listed as being headed for the California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in San Pedro Bay has declined to the lowest level since the bottleneck started to build two years ago, according to data from the Marine Exchange of Southern California & Vessel Traffic Service Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Eight vessels were in the official queue as of late Monday August 29th, which is the lowest since a combination of factors started a build-up in the number of waiting vessels – to above 100 at one point – from mid-2020 on.

The bottleneck became so bad that a new system was developed that reduced the number of vessels nearby waiting for a vacant spot – pushing them back along a line of vessels queueing all the way back to Asia. The backlog forced ships to wait two weeks or more. The system introduced in November 2021 had vessels slow-steam across the Pacific rather than bunching them at anchor near the ports.

However, the fall in wait time reflects a slowdown in consumer demand, he fact that inventories in the US are now high, and ships rerouting through Gulf of Mexico and East Coast ports.

The shift to East Coast ports over the past 12 months has implications that have not been lost on Los Angeles Port chief Gene Seroka, who in August released a press release stating that “cargo owners looking to re-chart their course, come to Los Angeles. We’re ready to help.”