top of page

Ships in California logjam now stuck off Mexico, Taiwan and Japan

The decline in ships waiting just offshore of Los Angeles/Long Beach continues to be touted as a sign that port congestion is easing — despite the fact that the true number of waiting ships has not actually declined.

Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said during a press conference Tuesday while standing alongside Labor Secretary Marty Walsh: “Since we instituted a penalty for long-aging containers, the number of ships at anchor has decreased by more than 40% over a four-week period. We have not collected a nickel of that penalty yet. We put it out there to motivate people and it has done just that.”

Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, said in response to a CNBC commentator on Nov. 24: “I think it’s a fair representation that there’s been progress, and I think, as you just noted, the president referencing the fact that the vessels at anchor have been diminished. We’re having some progress in addressing the capacity constraints at the terminals in the San Pedro Bay complex, particularly here at the Port of Long Beach.”

The number of container ships at anchor or loitering within 40 miles of the ports has indeed diminished. The reason: Since mid-November, a new queuing system has encouraged ships to wait outside of a specially designated Safety and Air Quality Area (SAQA) that extends 150 miles to the west of the ports and 50 miles to the north and south.

The overall queue, including container ships both inside and outside the SAQA, has not diminished. It reached a new milestone on Tuesday. For the first time, there were more container ships waiting outside the SAQA than inside the ports’ 40-mile zone.

According to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, there were 44 container ships waiting within the 40-mile zone as of midday Tuesday. Based on Marine Exchange data, American Shipper estimates that there were 50 container ships waiting outside the SAQA.

The total — 94 — was just shy of Monday’s all-time record of 96 (including ships outside the SAQA), and up 27% from the count on Oct. 25, the day the excess-dwell penalty plan was announced by Seroka and Cordero.

bottom of page