In The Wall Street Journal, Paul Berger reports that the congestion at California’s southern container ports that made headlines earlier in 2022 has finally begun to subside. He writes:
The backup of container ships off Southern California’s coast that was at the heart of U.S. supply chain congestion during the Covid-19 pandemic has effectively disappeared.
The queue of ships waiting to unload at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach fell from a peak of 109 ships in January to four vessels this week, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California. Shipping specialists say fewer ships than normal are heading to the main U.S. gateway complex for imports from Asia in coming days and that cargo volumes that had long swamped the ports now are receding.
Bottlenecks continue to delay cargo at other major U.S. seaports and at inland freight hubs, but the end of the backup at the big ports in California signals broader supply-chain tangles that have been troubling retailers and manufacturers are unwinding.
“Clearly it is good given how much these supply-chain constraints were drivers of inflation last year,” said Sameera Fazili, a deputy director of the National Economic Council who leads the White House Task Force on supply-chain disruptions.
Port and Biden administration officials point to a range of factors that have helped ease congestion, including a tighter queuing system that had ships lining up further out in the Pacific, new container yards that freed up space on docks, and government initiatives that fostered better collaboration between retailers, ports, railroads and truckers.
But the biggest gain likely has come from fewer boxes reaching the busiest U.S. seaport complex for container imports. U.S. import volumes are declining, according to trade data analysts, and a growing share of the shipments are heading to ports on the East and Gulf coasts as importers ship away from the Southern California backup.
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