Port of L.A. Will Divert Cargo Ships to Battle Import Congestion

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The Port of Los Angeles plans to divert cargo ships to other destinations because of pandemic-fueled congestion, according to the port’s executive director.

About 800 of the port’s 15,000 workers aren’t on the job because of Covid-19, leaving fewer staff to handle a surge in imports, Gene Seroka said at a press conference on Wednesday. Re-directing vessels to alternate ports will help the L.A. habor “dig out of this” backlog, he said.

The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the busiest U.S. gateway for ocean trade with China.

About 85% of container vessels are currently going straight to anchorage where they wait an average of 8 days to unload, up from fewer than 3 days when the congestion began in November and zero days during normal times, Seroka said. Truck and rail resources are “stretched thin.”

“We need to catch our breath,” he said. The port is experiencing a “pandemic-driven buying surge unlike any we have seen.”

The port is forecast to handle 730,000 twenty-foot equivalent units in February, up 34% from a year earlier, he said. For March, 775,000 TEUs are expected in the port, an increase of 72%.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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