$5.2 Billion in Cargo Stuck off West Coast Ports: Truck and Container Bottleneck Impacts Supply Chain

12 Jun $5.2 Billion in Cargo Stuck off West Coast Ports: Truck and Container Bottleneck Impacts Supply Chain


The West Coast ports in the United States are facing a significant bottleneck in their supply chains, resulting in a massive backlog of cargo and delayed shipments. The labor contract disputes and a slowdown in workforce conditions have caused disruptions, impacting critical transportation hubs and the overall efficiency of the supply chain. This article explores the causes and consequences of the truck and container bottleneck, as well as the potential solutions being sought to alleviate the situation.

1. Labor Contract Disputes and Workforce Conditions:

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) workforce at West Coast ports has been operating at a sluggish pace, greatly reducing ground port productivity. This slowdown has led to a significant surge in the average number of containers waiting outside port limits. For instance, the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have experienced a sharp increase in the number of containers waiting, with more than double the amount compared to the previous week.

2. The Economic Impact:

The combined value of the cargo stuck off the ports of Oakland, Los Angeles, and Long Beach has reached a staggering $5.2 billion. This calculation is based on an estimated value of $61,000 per container, as per customs data. The delays and disruptions in the supply chain have raised concerns among shippers, who fear a repeat of the backlogs experienced during the pandemic.

3. Increased Truck and Container Backups:

Truck turnaround times at West Coast ports have seen a noticeable increase due to the congestion caused by the bottleneck. Photos shared by truckers waiting for containers at the ports depict congestion on both rail and road, further exacerbating the delays. Shippers are becoming increasingly worried about the need to explore alternative supply chain options to mitigate the impact of the bottleneck.

A photo of a truck build up at Fenix Marine Services terminal at the Port of Los Angeles waiting to pick up containers taken by a trucker.

4. Diversion of Trade to East Coast and Gulf Coast Ports:

The threat of diverting ocean trade to East Coast and Gulf Coast ports looms large. However, this option is complicated by the drought conditions affecting the Panama Canal, which, if chosen, would add an additional 12-18 days of travel time for cargo destined for the United States. Shippers are grappling with the decision of waiting for the bottleneck to clear or incurring extra costs associated with rerouting.

5. Concerns and Calls for Resolution:

The labor disputes and the resulting supply chain disruptions have garnered attention from various stakeholders. The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) has reported work order requests not being fulfilled, leading to reduced port efficiency. Logistics managers and industry experts emphasize the need for a swift resolution to the labor disputes to avoid prolonged backlogs and provide stability to the supply chain.

6. Potential Consequences and Additional Costs:

If vessels decide to reroute to other ports, it will result in further delays and additional costs. The Panama Canal, facing low water levels, has imposed weight requirements on vessels. If vessels fail to meet these requirements, they face additional charges, and in some cases, ships may need to circumnavigate South America, significantly extending travel time and costs.


The ongoing labor contract disputes and the resultant truck and container bottleneck at West Coast ports have led to significant disruptions in the supply chain, impacting various industries and costing billions of dollars. The potential diversion of ocean trade to alternative ports, coupled with the challenges faced by the Panama Canal, adds further complexity to the situation. Stakeholders are urging for swift resolution and proactive measures to restore normal operations, ensuring a reliable and efficient supply chain for businesses across the United States.