North America’s biggest container port faces record backlog

Oct 19, 2021, 9:26 AM

(CNN) — Approximately 200,000 shipping containers remain on ships off the coast of Los Angeles on Monday as pandemic-related gridlock continues to disrupt various supply chains, according to Gene Seroka, the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

“We have about two weeks’ worth of work sitting at anchor right now,” Seroka said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. His port is trying to unload and then prioritize the cargo that needs to move off the port as quickly as possible.

“There’s product that needs to get out there in super-fast speed,” he said. “Think about the toys, the other Christmas product, and parts and components for factories.

The port has made some progress moving containers off the docks since President Joe Biden announced at a White House supply chain summit last week that the port would move to a 24/7 operating schedule. The port is the nation’s largest in terms of container volume.

“We had 25% of all cargo on our dock sitting here for 13 days or longer [and] that’s been cut in just about half over the last week,” Seroka said.

No one to pick up

Although the port is ready to operate around the close, its terminals, which are privately owned and operated, remain closed from 3 am to 8 am because there are no businesses calling on the ports in those hours seeking to pick up their containers.

“Currently there seems to be no cargo owners who are looking to use the 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. window,” said Phillip Sanfield, director of media relations for the port. “Terminals don’t want to be open if there is no interest in using the gates. We’re not yet seeing demand by cargo owners to come get their cargo during the overnight hours.”

Biden had said it would be a benefit to have trucks calling on the port overnight since there is much less traffic on the roads at that hour. But a shortage of truck drivers to handle that work makes that a moot point.

“The Port of LA is ready now. We have plenty of longshore workers. The issue is truckers and more importantly, cargo to be picked up,” said Sanfield. “We’re working with importers, terminals, etc. to get a demand for that window. There’s no one single lever to pull.”

Even before the expanded hours, Seroka said about 30% of the available appointments for trucks to pick up loads at the port were currently going unused. And longer hours of operations doesn’t mean that existing drivers can drive for more hours since there are safety rules limiting the number of hours they can be driving, and mandating rest between shifts.

Surging demand

But the problem is not simply the supply of trucks or hours of operation. The backlogs have mostly been caused by a crush of goods coming from Asia.

American consumers who have been spending less on services, such as travel or going to movies or other events, have been spending more money on goods, from household goods to automobiles. And the rise in imported goods and items that are built here with foreign sourced parts have resulted in more container volume trying to get through the ports than before the pandemic.

While the longer hours has alleviated some of the congestion at the ports, Seroka said executives expect the crush of goods won’t slow down until February 2022, at the earliest.

“We’ve been buying more than ever as American consumers and the retailers have really tried their best to keep up with demand,” Seroka said. “The second quarter of next year is going to be focused on replenishing this inventory.”

Because of that, Seroka expects the expanded schedule will to continue into next summer, not just for the 90-day period announced by Biden at the White House supply chain summit.

“We’re going to have to work all out,” he said. He also pointed to the problem of finding the truckers and trucks to move the containers away from the the port.

“We’ve to take advantage of that latent capacity and squeeze every minute and every hour of efficiency out of the port that we can,” he said.

Around the world, ports are congested as a result of the rapid rebound in demand for commodities and goods as much of the global economy has recovered from the pandemic. Shipping costs have soared, and companies wanting to move goods around are struggling because there just aren’t enough ships or containers available. All the while prices are going up for consumers.

— Anneken Tappe contributed to this report

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Close-up of Ring Chime for Ring Video Doorbell system from Amazon in smart home in Lafayette, Calif...

Clare Duffy and Brian Fung

Amazon to pay more than $30 million to settle FTC privacy complaints over Alexa and Ring

Lawsuits allege the tech giant violated users’ privacy — including that of children — through its Alexa and its Ring doorbell cameras.

18 hours ago

Danny Masterson sits in an interview...

ANDREW DALTON AP Entertainment Writer

Actor Danny Masterson found guilty of 2 out of 3 counts of rape in retrial

Jurors have found "That '70s Show" star Danny Masterson guilty of two out of three counts of rape.

18 hours ago

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks to local residents during a meet and greet, Tuesday, May 23...

\Jill Colvin

Mike Pence to launch campaign for president in Iowa June 7

Former Vice President Mike Pence will officially launch his widely expected campaign for the Republican nomination for president in Iowa next week.

18 hours ago

A map showing the location of the Charlotte North Carolina Temple (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter...

Larry D. Curtis

Location of new North Carolina temple released

The location of the Charlotte North Carolina Temple has been released, just months after it was announced.

18 hours ago

FILE - Former state Rep. Michael DiMassa, left, arrives at U.S. District Court in Hartford, Conn., ...

Dave Collins

Former Connecticut lawmaker gets 27 months in prison for stealing coronavirus aid

A former Connecticut state representative has been sentenced to 27 months in prison for stealing more than $1.2 million from the city of West Haven.

18 hours ago

Antonio Blackwell and Jeremy McFadden, left, are now in custody for their involvement in stealing b...

WHNS Web Staff

2 South Carolina men arrested after stealing $40K worth of chicken, deputies say

Two suspects are now in custody for their involvement in stealing boneless chicken breasts worth about $40,000 from Pilgrim’s Pride, according to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.

18 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Brunette guy in headphones playing games on his desktop computer...

PC Laptops

Looking For a New Computer? Use This Desktop Buying Guide

Choosing a new desktop computer can come with a lot of questions, so we created this desktop buying guide.

Portrait of happy boy playing and splashing water in the swimming pool...

Get Out Pass

Family Fun Activities in Utah You Have to Try This Summer

These family fun activities will entertain you all summer, so if you ever feel stuck in a rut wondering what to do, refer to this guide!

Woman IT specialist in elegant suit working on notebook computer in data center next to server rack...

Les Olson

Your Complete Guide to Outsourcing IT Services

This guide covers everything you need to know about the different benefits of outsourcing IT services to meet your small business needs.

diverse group of friends dance outside under string lights...

Lighting Design

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Outdoor Lighting

Read for the most frequently asked questions about outdoor lighting to help narrow the search for your home.

Stack of old laptops with dark background...

PC Laptops

Old Laptop Upgrades You Need to Try Before Throwing it Away

Get the most out of your investment. Try these old laptop upgrades before throwing it out to keep it running fast and efficient.

Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...

BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.

North America’s biggest container port faces record backlog