A Cargo Ship Jam at L.A.’s Ports Could Make Holiday Shopping a Pain

Even Port of L.A. director Gene Seroka has never seen a bottleneck like this before

Traffic desperation isn’t just for the freeways of L.A. anymore. A combination of massive consumer demand for imported goods and a shortage of trucks and drivers has resulted in unprecedented logjams of container ships waiting to unload their cargo at the ports of L.A. and Long Beach this week.

As the Guardian reports, the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex is already the largest in the U.S. and the ninth most massive on earth, but it saw its capacity strained to extremes with 62 ships sitting offshore as of Wednesday, down from a record-setting 73 vessels on Sunday, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California.

The complex is one of the nation’s most vital commercial arteries, processing 40 percent of all U.S. container imports and 30 percent of our exports, but even Port of L.A. director Gene Seroka has never seen a bottleneck like this before.

“The Americans’ buying strength is so strong and epic that we can’t absorb all this cargo into the domestic supply chain,” he tells CBS News. “That means you’re not going to find the product you want as quickly as normal. If you’re shopping for the holidays, start now.”

Like so many exciting, new experiences, the COVID is a major contributor, leaving millions to shop from home even as it debilitates significant portions of the workforce charged with getting the goods where they’re supposed to be—causing supplies to dwindle and prices to soar. And the holiday rush fun times haven’t even started yet.

More records are in the offing as Long Beach is set to see 9 million containers pass through this year, up from 8.1 million last year, which was itself the greatest number it has processed in its 110-year history. Never to be outdone, L.A.’s port became the first in the western hemisphere to process 10 million containers in a 12-month period back in June.

On Tuesday, the Port of Long Beach announced that it’s trying out a pilot program in which ships will be unloaded 24/7 in hopes of keeping the loads moving as speedily as possible.

“The port of Long Beach is prepared to take bold and immediate action to help the supply chain move the record cargo volumes that keep our economy moving,” Mario Cordero, the port’s executive director, tells the Guardian.

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