Ocean carriers looking to avoid logjams at the U.S.’s busiest container gateways on the West Coast are now facing even longer queues out east.
As of Wednesday, there were ships with more container capacity stuck outside U.S. East Coast ports than off the busiest sea-cargo gateways in the west, data compiled by maritime-analytics firm MarineTraffic showed.
Fifteen container ships are waiting off port limits at the San Pedro Bay ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, carrying a total of 95,000 twenty-foot equivalent units, while there are 18 vessels awaiting at Charleston, South Carolina, and a further 12 at Norfolk, Virginia, carrying 209,000 TEUs, it said.
MarineTraffic’s press office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Many of America’s biggest seaports have been overwhelmed by a combination of strong demand for foreign-made products, shortages of truckers and dockworkers, and pandemic-related disruptions affecting shipping lines.
U.S.-bound mega vessels have increasingly turned to the East Coast since the second half of 2021, when supply-chain disruptions peaked on major transpacific routes and contributed to historic delays at the country’s busiest ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California.
Companies including A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, the world’s largest container carrier, have added a significant amount of capacity to the East Coast and ports in the Gulf of Mexico, especially as West Coast operations gear up for contract-renewal talks for about 15,000 port workers. Disagreements saw the last bout of negotiations in 2014 drag on for nine months, creating an economic headwind across the country, a long line of waiting vessels and shortages for some consumer goods.