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Container ships now piling up at anchorages off China’s ports

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There are over 60 container ships full of import cargo stuck offshore of Los Angeles and Long Beach, but there are more than double that — 154 as of Friday — waiting to load export cargo off Shanghai and Ningbo in China, according to eeSea, a company that analyzes carrier schedules.

The number of container ships anchored off Shanghai and Ningbo has surged over recent weeks. There are now 242 container ships waiting for berths countrywide.

Whether it’s due to heavy export volumes, Typhoon Chanthu or COVID, rising congestion in China is yet another wild card for the trans-Pacific trade.

Congestion in Chinese ports that slows the flow of exports is bad news for U.S. importers but it could temporarily alleviate pressure on the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

When operations at the Chinese port of Yantian were heavily curtailed by a COVID outbreak in June, ships at anchor in California’s San Pedro Bay declined. The problem for California ports was that the temporary reprieve was soon followed by a surge of delayed cargo.

A major driver of congestion on both sides of the Pacific Ocean: Landside capacity (terminals, trucking, rail, warehousing) is limited, but the vessel capacity of a single ocean trade lane is highly flexible.

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