Record Shipping Volume + Short Staffed Ports = Big Shipping Delays

Dozens of cargo ships holding tens of thousands of containers remain stuck outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. A record surge in shipping volume that began in July and rose during the holiday season has continued into the New Year as businesses rebuild inventories that were depleted at the onset of the pandemic.

Overall, December marked the busiest month in Port of Long Beach’s 110-year history as trade jumped 23% thanks to a holiday season surge and a rush of ships making up for voyages that were canceled earlier in the year.

Together the LA and Long Beach ports are the largest in the country, handling more than a third of all containers coming into the US. While record shipping volumes would have been a strain on the ports under normal conditions, matters have been made worse by spikes in California’s Covid-19 cases, leaving these ports short-staffed. Nearly 2,000 dockworkers are currently off the job in order to comply with Covid-19 safety regulations. The union representing dockworkers and local elected officials are urging California health officials to declare dockworkers essential so they can get the vaccine as soon as possible.

Shipping Delay Timeline

On average, docking delays are about two days. However, some ships have been anchored off the coast for a week. As many as 48 vessels were parked off the southern California coast last week when usually there are none.

The shipping industry is bracing for the surge to continue even through the Lunar New Year next month as China and the US try to maintain momentum in a recovering economy.

The National Retail Federation said in a statement last week that it expects the import surge to continue this year amid shortages of shipping capacity and equipment. Port officials expect the backup to subside by late February or March, but the demand for consumer home goods will likely last through the summer.

Message to Product Companies

The backlogs have left many retailers waiting weeks to receive for their products. Small and medium-size companies with lean operations have been hit particularly hard.

While airfreight costs are always higher than sea shipping, paying the premium may be worth it if you want to receive your goods on time.

Blacksmith will continue to update our clients on sea shipping delays and do everything we can to ensure on-time delivery. If you have any questions, please contact us.