Date: 04.03.2021

US West Coast operation latest from our colleagues on the ground

Local knowledge is invaluable, which is why we are indebted to our joint venture partners at Fracht USA for providing us with their comprehensive intelligence.

Specialists in complex and turnkey movements for the energy, technology and gas sectors, our joint venture partner Fracht operates out of 115 offices across EMEA, Asia, Australia and America, with new offices opening in India two weeks ago and Mexico last week.

West Coast Operational Highlights

The reduced productivity of long-shore labour due to COVID-19 has contributed greatly to the vessel delays and according to terminal operators, congestion is expected to dissipate in Los Angeles-Long Beach come late spring.

Over 65 vessels including 20 container ships destined for the Port of Los Angeles, were at anchor in San Pedro Bay last Friday and there are fears that if conditions do not improve on the West Coast, it could be midsummer before some of these vessels lift anchor. 

A situation that is almost incomprehensible continues to choke the availability of containers, as they are suspended within the supply chain, sitting on vessels instead of being discharged and reloaded with further products for global consumption.

Carriers are noting that bookings are to be planned 4-6 weeks in advance and previously stated Pacific North West ports were a viable option, but are now increasingly experiencing backlog and congestion due to the metering of cargo from the Los Angeles/Long Beach area.

Currently, the Port of LA has an estimated 800 dockworkers unavailable due to COVID-related illness or otherwise being quarantined and isolating. And there is a pandemic-driven buying surge, which is continuing to propel this unprecedented surge in imports into the USA, which is being experienced on a world scale.

Months of strong demand has led to the slow turnaround of containers, within the overwhelmed US inland logistics system. The slow return of containers to Asia has led to equipment shortages in China, leaving shippers struggling to get their cargo loaded and transported. Not just back to America but to all export destinations that they are shipping to and therefore impacting the UK as a result.

Global schedule reliability is down 33.5 percentage points compared to this period in 2020, and is now the lowest figure ever recorded by Maritime Analysts at a global level of 34% on time arrival according to some trade reports.

Late vessel departures from Asian load ports, resulting in late vessel arrivals at US ports, have triggered a series of logistics issues throughout the entire transportation supply chain.

On the West Coast, the average delay for late vessel arrivals in January increased to 10.28 days, up from 8.01 days the previous month and 3.46 days in January 2020.

On the East Coast, the average delay for late vessel arrivals increased to 5.53 days, up from 4.92 days in December and 3.63 days during the same month last year.

Vessel bunching at the ports, particularly in LA/LGB, congested marine terminals, excessive container dwell times on the terminals, long truck lines at the gates, and equipment shortages have occurred to varying degrees across most major US gateways.

Please see below breakdown of current operations on the West Coast:


  • Vessel wait time is 10-12 days due to high import dwell and labour shortage
  • Currently 65+ container ships anchored outside of San Pedro Bay
  • Terminal Congestion is at critical levels with most terminals at or exceeding their capacity by 90% – 120%
  • Rail car shortages still resulting in berths to go idle
  • Truck and Driver shortage
  • Massive berth congestion due to continued off performance ships


  • Vessel wait time is 6-8 days due to labour shortage
  • Currently 20 container ships anchored outside of the port complex


  • Vessel wait time is 1-2 days due to high import volume and cargo diverted from LA/LGB

We continue to monitor the developing situation and assess the best options available to us and our customers in the interim.

Disruptions are to be expected during this time and your team here is working hard to help ease the impact, offer support, and provide alternative solutions where and if necessary.

Together, we will continue to maintain visibility of any disruptions and work through any challenges we may face and ensure we deliver the most beneficial solution available to our clients in the market.

For further information and the latest situation please contact Kevin Lake who is coordinating our America’s programme and platforms with our partners and overseas colleagues.