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Georgia vs California: The US container shipping gridlock

Covid-19 has not only affected the US’s global health and economic security, but it has also had a huge impact on the way both online and in-store purchases are entering the country. The US container shipping gridlock in both Georgia and California represent this massive surge in consumer product spending as the focus on travel and experience spending has decreased in the last year and a half.

In this article, we will look at what is causing the US container shipping gridlock in Georgia and California, how neighboring countries have also been affected, and how they plan to handle this moving forward.

Container Shipping Halts in California

The West coast has faced an armada of container ships that are currently halted by the vast influx of consumer spending that has arisen in 2020 due to many factors including travel restrictions, stimulus payments, and sales by companies trying to remain afloat during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Along the coast of California’s San Pedro Bay, an average of 30 ships, since the beginning of the year, have been awaiting ports at Los Angeles and Long Beach. This news causes considerable stress as Los Angeles and Long Beach are two of the most popular shipping ports in the US with an average of 9.4 million TEUs and 8 million TEUs, respectively.

Intermodal shipping

What Is Causing The Shipping Halts?

As we have mentioned, consumer spending has risen in 2020 leading to a higher demand in shipping, but this is not the only cause of shipping congestion along the West Coast; many factors have played a role in the shipping gridlock that remains at present a frustratingly long and arduous process.

Lack of Shipping Containers

A shortage of shipping containers in the second quarter of 2020 has become another reason behind the congestion on the West coast. The demand for goods–specifically Chinese goods–has increased to a point where shipper container makers are hurriedly trying to create more to meet the ever-increasing demand.

Influx of Chinese Goods

The increase in Chinese-made products in the last year has created such a significant delay in shipping that shipping container prices have increased by 300%. Items including workout equipment, furniture, electronics, and more have increased due to business shut-downs in 2020.

Covid-19 Cases

An outbreak of Covid-19 caused significant delays for the West coast shipping ports.

Landside Delays

With a large amount of imported products arriving at the West coast sea ports, landslide delays have been a prevalent factor in the gridlock of ships that remain in the San Pedro Bay. Port workers have to deal with transfer, inspection, and delivery of items that come through these ports which significantly delays the turnover rate of ships.

Container Ships On The West Coast

Shipping delays are not only affecting Southern California, but many other ports located on the West coast. Northern California and British Columbia are also experiencing delays that have been reported to last for days. Oakland port in Northern California currently has 13 ships anchored off the coast and British Columbia trail in second with 11.

Compared to Long Beach and Los Angeles’ numbers, it may seem like Northern California and Canada aren’t hit as hard, but the ports in the North don’t have the standard influx that Southern California typically experiences.

While the West Coast struggles to keep up with an overload of shipments, Covid-19 cases, and landslide delays, the East coast are dealing with their own shipping gridlocks, but for a few different reasons.

Container Ships Halted in Georgia

As California and Canada fight to keep up with an excessive influx of products, we look to the East Coast–specifically Georgia– to see a very similar situation.

The number of anchored ships vary weekly, but in March, the Savannah port saw fluctuations from 22 ships down to 14 ships. Fortunately, these numbers seem to be showing a decline in container ship congestion as Georgia doesn’t suffer from the same type of issues we see in California and Canada.

On the East Coast, we’re seeing congestion build as a result of both natural and man-made causes.

Ocean conatiners

What Are Causing Halts in the Savannah Port?

Like ports on the West coast, East coast ports are experiencing a build-up of shipping containers that are forced to remain at port until further notice. While these situations may be similar, the causes behind them aren’t.

The Savannah ports are experiencing issues that are also due to an excess of Chinese products, but they are also experiencing issues that are directly related to weather. Let’s take a look at what is causing halts in the Savannah port.

Annual Fog

Between December and February, the Savannah port will, from time to time, be closed due to annual fog that can affect shipping. However, in 2021. Savannah saw closures that were up 45% since the following year which added more delay to an already congested port.

The increase in fog seen in 2021 created a closure of the river for 109 hours in February leading to an untimely situation.

Winter Storms

Fog wasn’t the only natural occurrence that led to Savannah’s port congestion. New York and New Jersey ports saw winter storms that caused significant delays to Savannah. 

With the excess fog and the New England winter storms compounding with an already backed up volume, East coast ports were working hard to overcome the perfect storm. That said, Savannah ports have already seen a decrease in shipping congestion because a lot of their issues stemmed from natural occurrences.

Influx of Products

The only common denominator between West coast ports like Los Angeles and Long Beach and the East coasts ports at Savannah are the influx of volume in products due to  higher consumer spending in 2020 and 2021.

How Will Georgia and California Fix the Shipping Gridlock?

Both Georgia and California didn’t expect the record number of shipments they have received this year, so to prevent any further congestion, they have set to advance expansion and add more ship-to-shore cranes in order to prevent another armada forming along the coast.


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