There are more than 70 container ships bobbing out at sea outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach waiting to dock and unload, carrying cargo that will likely miss the holiday season amid the supply chain crisis.
If these 20-foot containers were unloaded and their contents laid end to end, it would stretch from Southern California to Chicago, or more than 3,000 kilometers, according to analysis from Bloomberg.
The global supply chain has reached crisis mode. After a fall in shipping demand during the early days of the pandemic in 2020, a surge at the end of that year led to delays and blockages across the world.
Containers have been stacked up on the docks for weeks waiting to be unloaded, but a shortage of on-dock workers and truck drivers has led to long delays as ships cannot dock and drop new cargo.
As of Monday, there were 73 container ships stuck off the Southern California coast, according to the Marine Exchange, which tracks port congestion.
The number of ships at anchor has fluctuated around this level for months, reaching a new record in October. Before the pandemic hit, the ports’ highest record had been 17 ships waiting to anchor.
These jams continue even as The White House mandated that Los Angeles and Long Beach ports shift to a 24/7 schedule to help ease congestion.
The situation is reflected globally. According to Bloomberg, the number of container ships anchored off Singapore was 22% higher than normal levels on Monday, the highest count since Bloomberg started tracking this data in April.
Ports in Manila and Jakarta are also reporting a higher level of congestion than normal.
Simon Heaney, senior manager for maritime research consultancy firm Drewry, told Bloomberg that ending the supply chain crisis will require a certain amount of luck along with investment to improve logistics capacity.