Port Congestion Amidst High Winds And Choppy Seas


Storm season is coming to the shores of Southern California, and that could make global supply chain bottlenecks even worse, reports The Strait Times.

Port congestion

Close to 160 vessels are waiting to enter the Long Beach and Los Angeles port complex – some mega-sized container ships carrying as much as half a million tons of everything from consumer goods to factory inputs. 

The build-up of cargo outside the main United States gateway for Chinese exports is contributing to goods shortages and price hikes ahead of the Christmas shopping season.

Ships waiting to use the Port of Los Angeles hit 14 days at anchorage this week, about the same amount of time it takes to cross the Pacific, according to port data. Before the coronavirus pandemic, it was rare for a ship to be at anchor at all, said port spokesman Phillip Sanfield. 

High winds and choppy seas

The area’s storm season that is already underway will bring high winds and choppy seas, potentially leading to accidents among ships jostling for space.

The combination of stormy weather and congested waterways has become so critical that the US Coast Guard issued a winter weather advisory on Thursday (Nov 4), requesting, among other things, that large ships remain three nautical miles apart from each other, be prepared to deploy a second anchor when winds are strong and keep their engines on standby.

The danger of ship accidents

Large ships such as the massive container vessels parked off the Southern California coastline can be blown around, said Dr Paul Blomerus, executive director of Vancouver-based Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping. 

Where there is congestion at a port, there is an increased risk for some accidents, including collisions. In March last year, the bulk carrier Golden Cecilie collided with the bulk carrier Green K-Max 1 off British Columbia amid gusting winds, entangling both vessels’ anchor chains.

In a recent high-profile example, strong winds blew the heavily-laden cargo ship Ever Given aground while transiting the Suez Canal in March, blocking traffic on the world’s most important waterway for almost a week.

Ship congestion can increase the possibility for mishaps even during regular winter storms, he said.

Stormy seas played a role in the loss of 3,000 shipping containers last year, more than double normal losses, and close to 1,000 during the first few months of this year, according to the Allianz Safety And Shipping Review 2021.

The California storms have already begun

On Oct 22, ahead of a massive rain storm that pummeled the state, the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which organises traffic, requested that vessels voluntarily go out to sea ahead of the windy weather, promising that vessels would not lose their spot in line if they did so.

The major rain and windstorm caused flooding in much of the state and downed power lines but did not result in major incidents at sea involving large commercial vessels, said Coast Guard spokesman Amy Stork.

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Source: The Strait Times


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