On 8 February, the number of container ships waiting to enter ports at Los Angeles and Long Beach fell to 78 from the peak of 109 a month earlier, the Marine Exchange of Southern California reported.
The backlog is the smallest since 11 November, according to The Wall Street Journal.
It is unclear whether the slowdown is a continuing trend or only a lull due to Asia’s factory slowdowns during the lunar new year holiday, the exchange said.
Ships are still waiting an average of 18 days for a berth in the ports. Before the COVID era, any wait was rare.
The backlogs have contributed to inflation as adequate supplies of goods have been unable to reach consumers, creating shortages and driving up prices for items that were on hand.
The port clogs will continue at least until June, CEO Soren Skou of shipper Moller-Maersk said in a statement last week.
Based on previous experience, the back-ups could take as long as nine months to fully clear, analysts at the Sea-Intelligence consulting firm warned in comments cited by the WSJ.
TREND FORECAST: As we reported in “Supply Chain Snarls Will Last Longer Than Expected, WTO Head Says” (8 Feb 2021), supply chains will remain clogged to some degree for at least the rest of this year, hampering the U.S. Federal Reserve’s efforts to control inflation. Shortages mean price increases, regardless of what the Fed does with interest rates.