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The Port of Long Beach announced this week that it marked its best November on record. The port moved 783,523 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs), which represents a 30.6% increase year-over-year. The story in Long Beach is all about imports, which were up 30.5% to 382,677 TEUs. Exports were down 5.2% to 117,283 TEUs. But the most significant figure is the number of empty containers shipped back to Asia for refilling. This number jumped 55% to 283,563 TEUs.

The Port of Long Beach stated in a press release on Wednesday, December 9, that its best November on record was the result of “the holiday retail rush and a surge in personal protective equipment deliveries amid the latest nationwide wave of COVID-19 cases.”

Long beach is not alone. The Port Authorities of Georgia and South Carolina have also announced recent record-setting months.

A by-product of marine terminal congestion, however, is vessel delays. Currently, there is an approximate one-week delay for vessels to berth for unloading/loading in Long Beach. According to the master queuing list published by the Marine Exchange of Southern California, 17 container ships were at anchor Tuesday, December 8, awaiting berths. That was down from 20 container ships at anchor on Monday. Six of the ships at anchor were of 10,000 TEU capacity or greater, including two of 14,000 TEU capacity and one of 13,000 TEU capacity.

The unprecedented volume of import containers received at U.S. ports system-wide continues to compromise marine terminal space, leading to further congestion issues and delays. Import distribution centers that typically receive much of this import volume for segregation and distribution are filled beyond capacity, further adding to the port congestion with a domino effect on trucking delays, increased truck turn-times and finally, rail congestion and delays.

It is anticipated that the current import surge will continue well into 2021 based on the assumptions of a successful release and delivery of a COVID-19 vaccine and the approval of another round of fiscal stimulus.

Noatum Logistics is working diligently on limiting these impacts for our customers. If you have any questions, please reach out to your Noatum Logistics representative.