Backlog of cargo in Long Beach

Logistics problems due to workload at ports of entry for goods, also known as container crises, are affecting the global logistics chain. Added to the delays, lack of supply and urgent need for labor is a new problem in the United States: the lack of storage space in the port.

The storage problem is being suffered in the ports of Southern California, which move about 40% of all US imports. In Long Beach, the backlog of cargo ships accumulates in tens of thousands of containers stuck in the port, in an unprecedented situation that, in 2021, broke a record of 110 ships waiting to dock, the vast majority of which were container ships.

The fundamental problem is that the containers are stacked on the docks, but there is not enough manpower to manage them. This means ships have to wait longer and longer for space to become available, with waiting times of up to three weeks.

Given that the priority is to empty space to be able to house the containers of the ships that are waiting and thus speed up the supply chains, on the instructions of President Joe Biden, a 24/7 schedule was adopted in the operation of the ports; a measure that has not been very effective, since there are no truck drivers to cover so many shifts.

Relaxation of the ban on stacking containers high on city parcels was subsequently adopted in Long Beach. Until now it was prohibited to stack more than two containers high, but the relaxation has allowed stacking up to four boxes, which is unleashing complaints from residents of adjacent neighborhoods.

The last measure of port operators is to charge fees to maritime carriers that leave containers occupying port space. The charge is 100 dollars per container, which will increase by another 100 for each day of excessive permanence (more than nine days for containers that will be taken by trucks and more than three if they will leave by rail).

If the situation does not improve, a state of port emergency could be declared in which the National Guard could be called in to deal with the containers.

This is an extreme situation that has revealed the relevance of proper port management. For Long Beach, it's the lack of space they haven't anticipated that has them in trouble.

The problem is that in a globalized economy, any miscalculation affects the entire logistics chain, from the ships to the shelves of retail stores and supermarkets. As it is precisely the last domino, some big box stores are redesigning their supply chains to make themselves immune to disruptions.

For example, Amazon is solving the problem by reorganizing its shipping and warehouse networks to be able to redirect its imports through ports on the US East Coast in the event of a bottleneck on the West Coast, while Walmart has built a import distribution near Houston, Texas, specially designed to receive products from China by rail from California or through the Canal de Panamá and the Port of Houston.

More information in storage in Mexico


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