- 28 ships were anchored off the coast of Los Angeles and Long Beach waiting to dock on Thursday.
- The California ports are congested and account for about one third of US imports.
- The port delays pile on a host of supply-chain issues.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
While the Suez Canal jam may have captured public attention before the cargo ship Ever Given was freed, the US is quietly facing its own supply-chain crisis as dozens of freighters float off the coast of Los Angeles, waiting for dock space to open up.
California ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach account for about one third of US imports. These ports operate as a primary source of imports from China and have been heavily congested for months.
On Thursday, 28 ships were anchored off the coast waiting for a spot to open up to unload at Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, according to data from the Marine Exchange of Southern California.
—Marine Exchange (@MXSOCAL) April 2, 2021
The Southern California ports are facing more congestion than ever before, Kip Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, told The Wall Street Journal.
“Under normal conditions, container ships rarely anchor,” Louttit said.
The ships carry millions of dollars worth of popular imports, including furniture, auto parts, clothes, electronics, and plastics, according to data from the Port of Los Angeles. Supplies of these materials could be heavily depleted in the US due to the backlog of ships.
Louttit said increases in consumer spending and, as a result, a spike in imports have overwhelmed the ports.
“The ports are setting records moving cargo,” Louttit told The Journal.
California port delays are already helping drive shortages and delivery delays in the US
California port delays seemed to have peaked in early February, but have persisted in recent months.
On January 30, Southern California port congestion hit a record high when 38 container ships were waiting along the coast for room to open up to dock and unload.
Gene Seroka, a Port of Los Angeles Executive, warned the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners in February that high import levels caused by increased spending during the pandemic were driving port congestion.
A video from the US Coast Guard shows dozens of ships anchored off the coast.
California port delays are just one of many factors piling onto a global supply-chain crisis
The boats waiting outside of the port, which can carry tens of thousands of shipping containers, are adding to the global container shortage, and, as a result, shipping delays.
Customers are already seeing the impact of shipping delays. During a third-quarter earnings call in February, La-Z-Boy executives said customers should expect delivery dates that are five to nine months out from the purchase date.
The Texas freeze, as well as a shortage of computer chips, have already pushed companies to increase prices and delay production. Several companies including Nike, Honda, and Samsung have already said they have been hampered by supply-chain issues.
As a result of California port delays and the global container shortage, customers will likely face rising prices and limited options as commodities become increasingly difficult to obtain and produce, and companies are forced to compete for containers and delivery dates.