Port backlogs are adding to cost and could delay construction of some projects.
Twenty-eight large container ships were still waiting on anchor to enter the ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach on April 4, down from 40 in early February. Another seven ships were expected to join the queue in the next three days. The two ports handle roughly a third of US container imports and are the main gateway for shipments from Asia.
The average wait for anchored vessels to reach the port is eight days. Roughly a quarter of containers then require another five days to reach the dock due to congestion on land.
Roughly 75% of containers are being returned empty to Asia because it does not pay to wait to reload them in the US.
Freight rates from Asia to the US west coast were up 240% at the end of March compared to a year earlier. Rates were up 500% to Europe.
The average shipping time from factory to destination is now nine weeks compared to four to five weeks a year ago.
Relief is unlikely in the near term as US retailers rush to restock depleted inventories ahead of what they hope will be peak demand in the fall as the US economy rebounds after the COVID lockdowns.