The CEO of a logistics startup took a boat tour of the Port of Long Beach and found a lot of things wrong, including terminals ‘simply overflowing with containers’

As US shipping ports grow increasingly congested, logistics leaders and local officials are seeking solutions to the national supply chain crisis. 

The City of Long Beach, California, issued a statement on Friday announcing it will temporarily permit additional container stacking to free up space and alleviate port congestion.

The announcement came shortly after Ryan Petersen, CEO of the freight logistics company Flexport, took to Twitter to share a similar recommendation after detailing his observations from a three-hour boat tour of the overloaded complex in Long Beach.

In a lengthy Twitter thread, Petersen — who noted that port operations in Long Beach were “at a standstill” on Friday, with “containers piling up in the terminal yard” due to lack of space — expressed the urgency of the situation and called for action. 

“It seems that everyone now agrees that the bottleneck is yard space at the container terminals,” Petersen wrote on Twitter. “The terminals are simply overflowing with containers, which means they no longer have space to take in new containers either from ships or land. It’s a true traffic jam.”

As part of the temporary order, the City of Long Beach is allowing up to four containers to be stacked at one time, up from two under standard policy. In some cases, five containers can be stacked if a property is granted permission from the city’s fire prevention department. 

“It has recently come to the City’s attention the Municipal Code contains zoning provisions that limit the number and/or height of shipping container storage, that if relaxed for a short time could provide some assistance during this national crisis,” the City of Long Beach wrote in a statement. 

Large containers on commercial dock in Long Beach, California.
Large containers on commercial dock in Long Beach, California. 

In Southern California, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles have been in a state of near-paralysis, even after workers were recently granted permission by the Biden Administration to unload ships for 24-hours a day. According to the Marine Exchange, this week there was a record of 169 boats floating off the ports, with some waiting upwards of 13 days to be unloaded

Lack of space for shipping containers has led truckers in Los Angeles to leave them lining the sides of residential streets. Meanwhile, the White House has considered bringing in the National Guard to help unload containers in Southern California and help alleviate a lack of truck drivers due to the labor shortage. 

Petersen wrote on Twitter that the supply-chain crisis has become “a negative feedback loop that is rapidly cycling out of control” adding that “if it continues unabated will destroy the global economy.”

“We don’t need to do the best ideas. We need to do ALL the ideas,” he wrote.

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