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Ports of L.A., Long Beach see more ships at anchor

SoCal marine exchange says more vessels arriving at the ports in October.

   The Marine Exchange of Southern California said more ships are arriving at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in October and more containerships are having to wait at anchor before going to a berth than is normal.
   J. Kipling Louttit, executive director of the exchange, said that at 7:05 a.m. on Wednesday morning there were five containerships at anchor compared to eight on Tuesday. On Wednesday two more containerships were due to arrive at anchor and one due to shift to a berth. As ships shift to berths and more arrive over then next several days, the number of containerships at anchor is projected by the exchange to go to four on Thursday, six on Friday and back down to four on Saturday.
   Louttit said the number of containerships at anchor was unusual.
   “With very rare exceptions – due to fog, severe wind – the containerships always go directly to the berth,” he said.
   He said that in September and October the exchange projected there would be 365 ships of all sorts arriving at Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor, but there were just 344 that arrived in September. In contrast, he said based on prorated traffic to date, the exchange expects 26 more, 391 ships of all sorts expected in October.
   The increase in traffic this month bucks a long-term trend. Last year the exchange counted 4,479 ships, compared to an all-time high of 5,881 in 2007.
   It was unclear whether any of that difference was due to more container vessels arriving in October than in September.
   Louttit said he was not certain why there are more containerships at berth, but said “hall talk” was that there is more traffic leading up to “Black Friday,” the start of the Christmas shopping season, the fact that because of new alliances, some carriers are now having cargo handled at different terminals than they have used in the past with different procedures, a lack of plentiful and roadable chassis, and even insufficient space at terminals because of capacity being taken up by “red-tagged” chassis. 
   In a bulletin to customers, Hamburg-Süd said its ship Cap Avatele, which arrived on schedule Monday, Oct. 20, was not expected to dock at Pier A in Long Beach until this Sunday, Oct. 26. 
   “We regret the significant delay of this departure and can only hope that the port congestion especially in Los Angeles/Long Beach will ease allowing us to provide you with on time sailings,” the company said.
   Patrick Burgoyne, president and chief executive officer of NYK Ports, which includes Yusen Terminal in Los Angeles, said “congestion at facilities and the pace at which the import cargo has flowed off the terminals has had this ripple effect which has increased the utilization of labor doing yard work and as a result that diminishes the amount of labor available to do vessel work and has had the consequence of backing up some vessels at the port.
   “We are hoping that will diminish in the next couple of weeks as imports flow out of the terminal and the demand for yard labor diminishes and that will free up more labor to load and unload the vessel,” he said.

Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.