San Pedro Bay is looking less crowded these days. The fleet of massive container ships loitering just off the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles has thinned to 46 boats from its peak of more than 80 in late October.
Is that a good sign for Southern California’s congested supply chain, and the breathability of its air? That depends on whom you ask.
At a news conference Tuesday to mark Labor Secretary Marty Walsh’s first visit to the port complex, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka pointed to the drop in anchored ships as a sign of progress. “Since we instituted a penalty for long-aging containers, the number of ships at anchor has decreased by more than 40% over a four-week period,” Seroka said.
The dramatic decline stems from a new policy set by shipping trade groups that encouraged incoming ships to wait out in the open ocean. Starting Nov. 16, boats crossing the Pacific have been asked to sit 150 miles offshore as they wait for a slot to unload, and boats traveling north or south along the coast were asked to sit 50 miles out. Although only 46 ships were waiting in San Pedro Bay as of Wednesday, an estimated 50 additional container ships that embarked after the change are now loitering over the horizon, which would raise the total backlog to a record high.
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