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Key US Ports Show Improvement in Clearing Shipping Container Backlog
December 01, 2021

Recent moves by industry groups and the US government have helped key ports across the country show improvement in moving containers out of docks and into warehouses. In a supply chain update, the US said long-dwelling containers (9 days or more) at the California Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles have fallen by 41% to 75,000 between November 1 and November 29.

The reduction in long-dwelling containers at the severely backlogged ports comes as more imports continue to arrive. Through the first half of November, loaded imports increased by 16% year-to-date compared to the same period in 2018, and are on track to break the previous annual record in 2018. Along with the key ports on the East Coast at New York-New Jersey and Savannah, Georgia, the number of loaded containers imported at the top four US ports is 21% above 2018.

This also comes as the key ports and industry groups implement initiatives to help alleviate vessel traffic and clear out containers. This week, some companies operating the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports will eliminate fees for night and weekend pickup of containers, meaning that containers moved off-peak can be moved for free.

The CMA CGM group, one of the largest international carriers, has also agreed to begin providing $100 discounts this week on containers that are quickly picked up and twice that amount if picked up during the night and weekend. The company will also help cover the cost of the Fenix Marine Services terminal at the Port of Los Angeles expanding to 24/7 operations.

The US Department of Transportation added that it will extend flexibility on the number of hours truck drivers can drive through the end of February. The White House said extending hours will provide a financial incentive for truckers to pick up containers at night—when trucks move 25% faster in the port—and during the weekend, which also bolsters the move toward 24/7 operations.

Port congestion, along with logistical challenges, costly freight, and rising warehouse costs, has kept importers from bringing in more resin. The shipping logjam is expected to continue into 2022, but there are forecasts for container traffic woes to ease slightly after the December holidays and the Lunar New Year. While there may be little incentive for buyers to bring in less expensive overseas resin, producers are exporting significant quantities of Polyethylene offshore, and Polypropylene into Mexico, which is typically a large consumer outlet for the US.

By Brian Balboa for The Plastics Exchange.

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