Record 100 ships waiting offshore at LA ports with cargo

The logjam of cargo, container, and tanker ships trying to access Long Beach and Los Angeles ports has hit a record of 100 vessels as of Monday evening. Another 45 are expected to arrive in the next three days.

view of the vessels from space looks like matchsticks scattered around the Southern California coastline, as ship captains pick their spot to spend the next week or longer waiting for a summons to dock. The ships are scattered along the shoreline for at least 20 miles.

The number of 100 vessels at anchor in the sea is a dozen higher than Friday and breaks a former record of 97 on Sept. 19, according to Capt. J. Kipling Louttit with the Marine Exchange of Southern California. The Marine Exchange is responsible for coordinating shipping traffic and piloting the vessels into port.

“The ships have been fabulous working with each other and the Vessel Traffic Service on the radio,” Louttit said. “Vessels in holding areas often ask their place in line to get an anchorage, which we carefully and accurately track, so they are offered anchorages in order of arrival.”

Ships must abide by a set of rules when picking a spot, such as staying out of shipping lanes and anchoring at least two miles from another ship and two miles from shore. They are typically supposed to stay within a 20-mile radius, but this rule has been waived given the port crisis.

Twenty-three of the waiting ships are “mega-container ,” meaning they are the largest shipping vessels in the world and can hold more than 10,000 20-foot containers.

The container ship Martinique has waited the longest — arriving on Sept. 9. 

In addition to all the cargo, the ports continue to welcome other ships without delay, such as cruise liners. Carnival Miracle berthed in Long Beach and Grand Princess and Norwegian Bliss in Los Angeles on Monday, Louttit said.

A total of 57 vessels are at the docks, including cruise ships, tug boats, and law enforcement.

“Port partners continue to do a great job to ensure a safe, secure, efficient, reliable, and environmentally sound marine transportation system,” Louttit said. “We’re honored to be a part of it.”