California ports aren't the only ones facing record backlogs of cargo ships — 3 other US ports have hit historic highs

New Jersey, New York and Georgia have experienced record pileups at their ports.
The turnaround time for container ships has increased in all parts of the country.

The most delays are experienced by Southern California ports, which handle almost half of all US imports.

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As multiple US ports experience record backlogs, shipping delays are increasing across the country.

The largest source of US imports, California ports are well-known. They account for almost half of all US incoming goods. Over 60 large cargo ships are lined up on the shore, waiting to unload and dock. However, smaller ports are also feeling it.

The Port of Savannah is America's fourth-largest port. More than 20 container ships are docked at the Port of Savannah. This year, the port broke multiple records for the number container ships that passed through it. The port handled 5.3 million 20-foot containers during fiscal year 2017, according to Associated Press. This is the highest number of container ships that the port has seen in a single fiscal year.

The Georgia Ports Authority didn't respond to Insider's request for comment. However, Griff Lynch, Executive Director of Georgia Ports Authority, told The Wall Street Journal that the surge in e-commerce has led to an increase in cargo ships.

Lynch stated to The Journal that all the extra freight being imported is creating a backlog from ship to dock to warehouses and throughout the supply chain.

Containers for shipping near a shipyard. Getty Images

The Georgia Ports Authority approved an initial $34 million plan earlier this week to address port delays. It included additional space for another 1.6 million 20-foot shipping container.

The rising cargo volumes that move through smaller ports shows how diversifying traffic from Southern California is no viable option

Port Houston established a new record in August for the number shipping containers that passed through its port. More than 320,000 20-foot containers made it through the port. This is 29% more than the previous year, when shipping volumes were already high. Port Houston did not respond to our request for comment. However, the group released a press release in which they addressed the new record.

Roger Guenther is the executive director of Port Houston. He stated that "we expect elevated levels in supply chain to continue well into 2020 and will continue exploring opportunities, including acceleration an already aggressive capital investments strategy for our terminals in order to remain in front of the demand."

Port of New Jersey, New York, which handles most imports to the East Coast, saw a record 13th consecutive month of cargo in August. According to a press release, 780,000 shipping containers transited the port in August. Insider was told by a spokesperson for the Port of New York that 9 cargo ships were currently anchoring at the Port of New York. However, all of these ships are expected to dock within 48-hours.

"There is no shortage of labor or large shipping backlogs. Insider was told by a spokesperson that the majority of ships off the coast of New York or New Jersey are oil tanksers and do not make calls at the Port Authority of New York or New Jersey facilities. "Throughout September and the entire pandemic, the port performed exceptionally well in maintaining the supply chain throughout the region as well as cargo bound for Midwest via rail.

Despite the record-breaking numbers of smaller ports, Southern California ports still have the largest backlog.

RBC Capital Markets and Orbital Insight analyzed 22 of the most important ports worldwide. They found that 77% had experienced wait times that were longer than average this year. The most inefficient wait times were found at the top ports of the world, including those in Southern California. Comparing to 2017-2019 averages, the turnaround time for containers in these ports almost doubled by 2021.

Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

The average time taken for a ship from loading to unload at the port to arrive in Southern California was 3.6 days. This is nearly five days more than many ports in Asia that are open 24/7. The wait times at the port are increasing rapidly, with some vessels waiting up to three weeks to dock.

However, East Coast ports have seen a more stable level. New York, New Jersey and Port Houston saw an average increase of 25%. The Port of Savannah was not included in the study.

According to the study, the most difficult problem at Long Beach and Los Angeles ports was the low foot traffic. This is 28% less than pre-pandemic levels.

Insider was told by Mike Tran, RBC Capital Markets' managing director of global energy and digital intelligence strategy, that "we were able to quantify how severe the worker shortage is taking place by measuring foot traffic." "Container ships carry 30% more goods which means that there are more goods to unload. But now, they must do it with 28% fewer people."

Insider was told by Tran that the only way the supply-chain crisis would resolve itself is if people reduced the number of goods they purchase. This unlikely outcome, given the impending holiday season and many companies' need for replenishing depleted inventories.