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Ships Head to Sea to Avoid Winter Storm in Southern California

ships depart anchorage due to strong winter storm
San Pedro Bay (file photo)

By The Maritime Executive 01-26-2021 06:18:13

A winter storm is adding to the challenges for the Southern California ports and the backlog of shipping waiting for space in the ports. Many of the ships anchored off the San Pedro Bay port complex decided to head to sea on January 25 to ride out the storms.

“We cannot recall a more complex situation with this many vessels and this bad a wind and sea condition, for such a sustained period of time (anticipated 21 hours).  It was a busy night, but we and all port partners are on it,” wrote The Marine Exchange of Southern California in a Twitter posting. The ninety-plus-year-old, non-profit organization is dedicated to the development and efficient flow of maritime commerce throughout the region.

They reported on January 24 that 105 ships were in the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles an increase of five from the prior day. However, the storm was especially challenging for the 49 vessels at anchor off the ports. This included 33 containerships. Six of the vessels had been scheduled to move into the ports on January 25.

Heavy weather protocols were enacted at 2:00 a.m. local time on January 25. The forecast was for heavy winds.  Stormy conditions with 30 knot sustained wind with gusts to 55 and as much as 17-foot seas we being experienced across the region.

As a result of the storm, The Maritime Exchange reported that many scheduled movements did not happen. In addition, 17 ships got underway from the anchorage and went to sea. This included 14 containerships, two tankers, and one idled cruise ship. “The pilots and tugs are doing a masterful job of arrivals and departures in these conditions,” The Maritime Exchange said.

A total of 31 ships decided to ride out yesterday’s storm at anchor while an additional 86 ships remained in the two ports.

Weather conditions improved today in the ports and normal operations were continuing.  However, with an additional 28 containerships due to arrive during the remainder of the week, the delay in port operations is expected to continue. Recently the Port of Los Angeles reported that 80 percent of the arrivals have had to wait at anchor an average of four days due to congestion at the terminals and in the port.