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The shipping container backlogs at East Cost ports are now bigger than those on the West Coast

Business Insider logo Business Insider 4/7/2022 awallace@insider.com (Abby Wallace)
A cargo ship with containers onboard waits at the port of Long Beach in November 2021. Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images. © Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images. A cargo ship with containers onboard waits at the port of Long Beach in November 2021. Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images.
  • More containers are now waiting to unload on the US East Coast than on the West Coast.
  • Vessel tracker MarineTraffic tweeted about the new trend on Wednesday.
  • US West Coast ports saw record numbers of ships waiting to dock during the pandemic.

More containers are waiting to unload outside ports on the US East Coast than on the West Coast, according to vessel tracking website, MarineTraffic.

More than 600,000 containers stacked on ships and waiting for capacity to unload were bound for the US as of Wednesday, MarineTraffic said in a tweet. Of those, 186,000 were waiting off the West Coast, while 273,000 were waiting off the US East Coast.

Ports on the West Coast — which are key exchange points between US and Asian markets — are some of the busiest in the US. The ports of LA and Long Beach are responsible for offloading almost half of all imports to the US. 

During the pandemic, the ports experienced bottlenecks of ships waiting to unload as demand for goods outstripped the capacity to unload containers. This was due to ongoing labor shortages. In September, 65 cargo ships waited at anchor or in drift areas to dock, Insider's Grace Kay previously reported. 


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The average wait time later doubled in November as the number of ships at anchor and in holding zones grew to 83, according to Bloomberg. 

Now, the number of containers waiting along the East Coast is outstripping that of the West. 

On Wednesday, 15 boxships were waiting outside ports in LA and Long Beach, carrying 95,000 containers. Meanwhile, 18 waited outside the port at Charleston, North Carolina, and 12 waited at Norfolk, Virginia, — both located on the east coast — carrying 209,000 containers, per Marine Traffic. 

It is not clear when the number of containers waiting capacity to unload on the East Coast outstripped that of the West. Marine Traffic, and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. 

Global shipping companies, including shipping giant Maersk, added more containers to cargo vessels bound for the East Coast in the second half of 2021 to avoid long queues at LA and Long Beach, Bloomberg reported.

Maersk did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment in relation to which US ports it sends the majority of its containers to.

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