The backup of container ships off the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA was one the biggest sources of U.S. supply chain congestion during the COVID-19 pandemic and a contributor to inflation. Now, though, it’s over, thanks to a drastic decline in import demand nationally.

The number of ships waiting to unload at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach fell from a peak of 109 ships in January to just four vessels in late October, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California (see graph). The biggest impact came from fewer containers reaching U.S. seaports for container imports. Additionally, a growing share of shipments is heading to ports on the East and Gulf Coasts of the US.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach together handled 686,133 loaded import containers in September, down 18% from a year earlier and the lowest level since June 2020, according to port figures. Container imports to the US in September declined by 11% from a year earlier and by 12% in August. The cost of shipping a container from China to the United States has fallen to about $2,700 compared to last year’s high of around $20,000.

Bottlenecks continue to delay cargo at other major U.S. seaports and at inland freight hubs. Ports including Savannah, Houston, New York, and New Jersey have coped with backlogs triggered by diverted cargo from SoCal ports.

With demand slowing, shipping lines have canceled between 26% to 31% of their sailings across the Pacific over the coming weeks, according to Sea-Intelligence, a Denmark-based shipping data group, signaling that carriers are preparing for a continued drop in bookings.

Read more in the Wall Street Journal, here.

Image: Wall Street Journal