“Ship Security is Complete” in the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach

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According to an email from the Marine Exchange of Southern California Nov. 22, an industry working group declared the port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach freed after 25 months.

The decision to declare the backlog over was made by the Marine Exchange in conjunction with the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA), Marine Exchange Captain and Executive Director Kip hit Lute said in the email.

Louttit said in the email that two main factors led to the end of the backlog: an “adequate” availability of labor to unload and load cargo from container ships and the choice of some shipping companies to arrive after their estimated time of arrival in order to optimize them their ship operations.

Demand at the ports has also fallen significantly. Ongoing labor negotiations from West Coast ports have prompted shippers to focus on less risky alternatives, shifting cargo to the East or Gulf Coast. Both the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach reported lower cargo volumes in October compared to the same time last year.

The backlog, which began in October 2020, was partly due to severe congestion as demand exceeded capacity. Southern California ports faced record volumes for months, eventually convincing port officials to extend operating hours.

In response, the Marine Exchange created voluntary policies to try to reduce the number of ships overcrowding the San Pedro Bay ports, which came into effect on November 15, 2021. The queuing system required ships bound for either port to wait further away for up to 72 hours before their berth allocation.

The guidelines didn’t solve the backlog, but did help move queued container ships 50 to 150 miles offshore, manage the work assignment process, and improve safety and air quality. The queuing system operated by Pacific Maritime Management Services remains in effect, Louttit added.

“The new system has worked extremely well over the past 53 weeks to manage the work assignment process, improve safety and improve air quality,” he said in the email. “We assumed there were 86 container ships anchored or loitering/floating in our waters [on] November 16, 2021 [and] first went to zero loitering on February 3, 2022 and stayed at low levels thereafter.

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