Date: Friday, February 5, 2021
The chronic port congestion in California has spread north. Yesterday, Splash reported on a record-breaking 20 km queue, featuring 41 boxships waiting to berth outside the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, amid an extraordinary import surge combined with a bout of Covid-19 taking out a sizeable chunk of the local port workforce.
Mapping data from MarineTraffic today (see below) shows there are 17 ships now queuing at anchor at the port of Oakland further north, with many other ships inbound. Of the 17 ships waiting, 11 are boxships.
“Oakland is jammed now. And this will only continue to spread north until the whole coast is inundated,” commented Andy Lane from container shipping analysts Sea-Intelligence.
This week French liner CMA CGM unveiled a new Golden Gate Bridge service, the first and only direct service to Oakland from Asia. CMA CGM’s new service, calling Oakland for the first time on February 12, was created as an alternative to congested Los Angeles and Long Beach, with the Marseille-headquartered liner warning this week that it expects congestion issues in southern California to last through to June.
“Oakland is an ideal, reliable alternative to the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach for West Coast customers importing goods due to its easy access for existing California shippers, immediate berth availability and fast rail connections into Chicago, Memphis, Dallas and Kansas City,” CMA CGM stated in a release.
The expanded service will also include Seattle, allowing for new capacity to Pacific Northwest customers.
Ed Aldridge, president of CMA CGM America and APL North America, said: “We believe calling Oakland first from Asia will help meet market demand while also providing some relief to the congestion at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.”
Judah Levine, research lead at online box booking platform Freightos, commented: “Non-stop demand for ocean freight continues to plague the industry in the form of port congestion and resulting delays and equipment shortages. Ships skipping the clogged LA/Long Beach port are now causing a backlog outside the Port of Oakland.”
Normally, carriers activate recovery vessels, or alternate ships, to take the place of a delayed vessel. But with essentially all capacity already in use and no ships available for charter, carriers are simply cancelling sailings to catch up with schedules.
“Even this move is not expected to slow the surging volumes,” Levine said.
With American supply chains coming under acute pressure from the Californian ship queues, officials from the Federal Maritime Commission have this week suggested carriers contemplate rerouting and using ports further north such as Tacoma and Seattle in the coming days and weeks. The Federal Maritime Commission is also asking the new US administration to prioritise dock worker vaccinations.
Port congestion is also being felt in Asia.
“Due to the very high demand we experience increasing delays due to heavy port congestions. Labour shortages and work interruptions in certain ports and various inland bottlenecks exacerbate the situation. As a consequence of this ships are waiting in line significantly longer than normal in Asian, North American and also in some other ports, leading to vessels being days and in many cases more than a week behind their normal schedule,” Rolf Habben Jansen, CEO of Hapag-Lloyd, the world’s fifth largest liner, wrote in a letter to clients earlier this week.