U.S. import boom is delaying cargo at nation's busiest port

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Record cargo imports are causing delays that are rippling from the nation’s busiest U.S. port complex to other parts of the transportation network, port officials and other executives said.

Total volume at the Port of Los Angeles hit 980,729 20-foot equivalent units (TEU) in October, up more than 27% versus the year earlier. Loaded imports, which accounted for more than half of shipments, jumped 29% - marking the third consecutive month of robust growth.

The typical holiday shipping peak is exaggerated this year because retailers and manufacturers are racing to restock depleted warehouses and the coronavirus pandemic is creating unplanned-for demand for items from patio furniture to protective gear for healthcare workers.

Container dwell, the time a box of goods spends on port property, has doubled to 5 days during the import surge. Street dwell, the wait time for warehouse space, is up more than 100% to 7.1 days. And, truck turn times are rising because it takes longer to find containers inside port terminals, Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said on Wednesday.

“It’s simply impossible for all of us to keep pace with this volume of cargo,” Seroka said.

At the same time, importers and warehouse operators are reporting delays at the Los Angeles and adjacent Long Beach ports, which lead the nation in trade with China.

“Arrivals at the ports are absolutely jammed up,” Mark Bissell, chief executive of vacuum seller Bissell Inc, said.

Other importers and warehouse operators told Reuters that those backups are being exacerbated by a shortage of trucks that move cargo to destinations around the country.

The Port of Long Beach is battling congestion in port complex by moving some containers to a staging area on a 40-acre lot within its property, Mario Cordero, that port’s executive director, told Reuters.

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Alistair Bell