A large number of trucks carrying containers wait atto drop containers off at LA Port.

US West Coast Congestion Update

Overcrowding continues to blight the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, with ships forced to berth outside the harbour because of lack of berth availability, and more than 40 vessels due to arrive over the next three days.

The delays, which continued over the Christmas holidays, come as shippers, ocean carriers and terminal operators await word from labour leaders about whether they will accept mediation on a new contract for US west coast longshore workers.

Employers finally decided last week to request outside assistance after seven months of negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. However, the US Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service needs agreement from both parties before it can step in. The ILWU has yet to publicly say whether it will take up the FMCS’s offer of help.

One industry source told Lloyd’s List he expected the union to reject mediation on the grounds that the two sides would be able to reach consensus without third party intervention. However, the source warned that there could be more unofficial industrial action, which has slowed cargo-handling operations in recent weeks.
Both the PMA and ILWU said earlier in the month that they remained far apart on a number of issues.

In the meantime, delays remain a daily feature at the two largest ports in the US, with six ships waiting outside San Pedro Bay harbour on Sunday morning, local time, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. Of those, four were containerships – the 10,000 teu CSCL East China Sea, which arrived on December 21, 4,500 teu MOL Encore, 8,400 teu OOCL Canada and 6,500 teu YM Mutuality.

Another 20 ships are scheduled to arrive today, Monday, including eight containerships, one of which will go straight to anchor. But the situation looks set to worsen over the next few days, with 14 pending arrivals on Tuesday, including 10 containerships. Of those, six are due to berth while four will have to anchor. On Wednesday, seven more arrivals are scheduled, including two containerships.

In total, 55 vessels are currently in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, of which 26 are containerships.
Tankers, bulk carriers and general cargo ships have also been caught up in the congestion, which has been caused by equipment shortages and the introduction of much larger ships on the Pacific, as well as productivity issues.