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California ports, key to U.S. supply chain, among world's least efficient

10/20/2021 | 03:50pm EST
FILE PHOTO: Shipping containers are unloaded from ships at a container terminal at the Port of Long Beach-Port of Los Angeles complex in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Southern California's Los Angeles and Long Beach ports handle the most ocean cargo of any ports in the United States, but are some of the least efficient in the world, according to a ranking by the World Bank and IHS Markit.

In a review of 351 container ports around the globe, Los Angeles was ranked 328, behind Tanzania's Dar es Salaam and Alaska's Dutch Harbor. The adjacent port of Long Beach came in even lower, at 333, behind Turkey's Nemrut Bay and Kenya's Mombasa, the groups said in their inaugural Container Port Performance Index published in May.

The total number of ships waiting to unload outside the two adjacent ports hit a new all-time record of 100 on Monday. Americans' purchases of imported goods have jumped to levels the U.S. supply chain infrastructure can't handle, causing delivery delays and snarls.

Top port honors went to Japan's Yokohama and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah on the ranking. Finishing out the top five were Chiwan, part of Shenzhen's port in Guangdong Province; South China's Guangzhou port; and Taiwan's Kaoshiung port.

Ports in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa dominated the top 50 spots, while just four U.S. ports cracked the top 100 - Philadelphia (83), the Port of Virginia (85), New York & New Jersey (89) and Charleston, South Carolina (95).

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted trade around the globe, snarling trade and exposing the frailty of a supply chain built for predictable, just-in-time movement of goods.

The United States is the world's biggest consumer, importing goods valued at roughly $2.5 trillion a year. President Joe Biden is fighting for massive federal funding to modernize crumbling infrastructure - including seaports. Government control, 24/7 operations and automation help make many non-U.S. ports more efficient.

Biden is pushing port executives, labor union leaders and major retailers like Walmart to attack shipping hurdles that are driving up the price of goods and raising the risk of product shortages during the all-important holiday season.

Southern California port executives are coaxing terminal operators, importers, truckers, railroads, dock workers and warehouse owners to adopt 24/7 operations in a bid to clear clogs that have backed up dozens of ships offshore and delayed deliveries to stores and e-commerce fulfillment centers.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Heather Timmons and Diane Craft)

By Lisa Baertlein


ę Reuters 2021
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