Ocean Freight Update

Ocean Freight Update

Written by: Dana Wilson, Empire Bolt & Screw

February 16, 2021

I just sat through a webinar update on the status of ocean shipments.  Bottom line:  it’s ugly right now.

In a nutshell:

  • Shipping volume is hugely up, containership space availability is hugely down, and there are record vessel stackings in ports all over the country for a variety of reasons. 
  • Los Angles and Oakland are probably the worst backlogs of all, with record waits for ships to both berth AND to be offloaded and reloaded.  A ship can sit at anchor for more than weeks awaiting a dock, and then it can take another 2-4 weeks for the container to be offloaded, clear customs, and get on the road.
  • Schedule reliability, which is historically around 75%, is at an all-time industry low right now of only 34%, meaning that only 34% of the time is a shipment hitting the expected schedule dates that the carriers plan for.
  • Words such as STAGGERING, CHAOS, UNPRECEDENTED were being used by the experts in this webinar to define what we are seeing in the shipping industry right now.
  • Seattle-Tacoma is not experiencing near the delays as the rest of the country, so we are fortunate with our direct import shipments.
  • However, many (probably most) of our blanket and mill items route thru Los Angeles, so we are definitely experiencing the delays that way.
  • All of this is entirely cyclical, so the experts predict that things WILL ease up, especially once things start opening up again and people can start traveling instead of buying things that are creating the huge increase of consumer goods importing.  (Appliance shipments are up 89%, leisure products up 46%.)  However they don’t expect to see any improvement for at least six months, there is such backlog to be cleared right now.

So when we see longer lead times for overseas products (which we absolutely are), it’s not that it’s taking the factories longer to manufacture the parts.  It’s taking far longer to book vessels and get vessels in and out of ports.  And once the product does arrive at port, the logistics of the overcrowded port creates huge backlogs in the trucking aspect of things.

Here is a link to an article highlighting some of the issues. 


The video (scroll down) is quite dramatic showing all of the container ships at anchor awaiting berths, as well as all the containers stacked in port awaiting movement.  It was filmed last Thursday; there were 35+ ships at anchor, and 25+ ships docked.  Record numbers.

Dana Wilson, Certified Fastener Specialist™
Purchasing: Standard & Custom Components
Quality Systems Coordinator & Special Projects

Empire Bolt & Screw Inc. 
1501 E. Trent Avenue  | Spokane, WA 99202
Toll Free US & Canada: (888) 534-0636


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Comments on "Ocean Freight Update"

Comments 0-5 of 2

Jennifer Sturm - Tuesday, February 23, 2021

It might be hard to pick out the right containers, but the visual of you in a zodiac buzzing between the ships gave me a chuckle! Go Andy!

Andy Cohn - Tuesday, February 23, 2021

im looking out the window at those 35 ships lined up off shore here at LA/Long Beach=other than offering to swim out and ask about your parts i probably cant do anything but it is an impressive mess! Andy Cohn

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