The flood of imports into the Port of Los Angeles is relentless. Records were set in March 2021, and volumes are expected to remain at peak levels, with container ships to remain stuck at anchor, awaiting berthing until June. Los Angeles handled 957,599 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in March, up 113% year on year, the highest March number in the port’s history. Loaded inbound containers totaled 490,115 TEUs, up 122% year on year, the highest monthly import tally since October. Loaded outbound containers totaled 122,899 TEUS, up 1% year on year. Outbound empty containers totaled 344,585 TEUs, up 219% year on year.
There have been a lot of headlines about the “parking lot” of container ships at anchor in San Pedro Bay, awaiting berths in Los Angeles and Long Beach. Recent average time at anchor was still eight days, which is higher than the seven to seven and a half day anchorage times reported in January and February. Daily anchorage counts from the Marine Exchange of Southern California show that the year-to-date average is 29.6 ships at anchorage per day.
The madness continues with the empties, referring to outbound empty container volumes loaded on ships in Los Angeles in March. That month saw the highest-ever number of empties loaded on ships in Los Angeles. The four-to-one gap between empty export containers and full export containers is the highest gap we have seen in recent times. It’s quicker for ocean carriers to get the empties onto the ships and to the next point of origin in Asia to recycle them and have them come back as imports, than it would be for the additional transit time to reach U.S. exporters here and then deliver exports to Asia consignees on the other side of the Pacific. Carriers are trying to cut down the transit time and catch up on the massive orders for imports and the next round to come to the U.S..
For more information, contact David Lychek, Manager – Ocean & Air Services.