Satellite imagery shows the scale of the traffic congestion at the ports of Los Angeles

Long Beach

Port of

Los Angeles

Ships waiting to enter

port on Sept. 15

5 MILES

Long Beach

Port of

Los Angeles

Ships waiting to enter

port on Sept. 15

5 MILES

Port of

Los Angeles

Long Beach

Huntington

Beach

Newport

Beach

Ships waiting to enter

port on Sept. 15

5 MILES

Port of

Los Angeles

Long Beach

Huntington

Beach

Newport

Beach

Ships waiting to enter

port on Sept. 15

Port of

Los Angeles

Long Beach

Huntington

Beach

Newport

Beach

Ships waiting to enter

port on Sept. 15

5 MILES

Traffic jams are nothing new for Southern California. But what’s happening at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is truly historic. Record demand for imported goods, beginning in mid-2020, coupled with shortages of truckers, shipping containers and other equipment, has slowed ship unloading and left dozens of vessels waiting offshore.

Satellite images, collected from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 2 satellite show typical congestion before and during the pandemic. Each dot on the graphic below shows an unscientific census of ships large enough to see from space. Each image is from the middle of the month.

Ships visible in

satellite image

5 MILES

Oct. 2019

Nov. 2019

Dec. 2019

Jan. 2020

Feb. 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

June 2020

July 2020

Sep. 2020

Aug. 2020

Oct. 2020

Nov. 2020

Dec. 2020

Jan. 2021

Feb. 2021

March 2021

May. 2021

April 2021

June 2021

July 2021

Aug. 2021

Sept. 2021

Los Angeles

Ships visible in

satellite image

5 MILES

Oct. 2019

Nov. 2019

Dec. 2019

Jan. 2020

Feb. 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

June 2020

July 2020

Sep. 2020

Aug. 2020

Oct. 2020

Nov. 2020

Dec. 2020

Jan. 2021

Feb. 2021

March 2021

May. 2021

April 2021

June 2021

July 2021

Aug. 2021

Sept. 2021

Los Angeles

Ships visible in

satellite image

Oct. 2019

Nov. 2019

Dec. 2019

5 MILES

Jan. 2020

Feb. 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

June 2020

Sep. 2020

Aug. 2020

July 2020

Oct. 2020

Nov. 2020

Dec. 2020

Feb. 2021

March 2021

Jan. 2021

May. 2021

April 2021

June 2021

July 2021

Aug. 2021

Sept. 2021

Los Angeles

Ships visible in

satellite image

5 MILES

Oct. 2019

Nov. 2019

Dec. 2019

Jan. 2020

Feb. 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

June 2020

July 2020

Sep. 2020

Aug. 2020

Oct. 2020

Nov. 2020

Dec. 2020

Feb. 2021

March 2021

Jan. 2021

May. 2021

April 2021

June 2021

July 2021

Aug. 2021

Sept. 2021

Los Angeles

Ships visible in

satellite image

5 MILES

Oct. 2019

Nov. 2019

Dec. 2019

Jan. 2020

Feb. 2020

March 2020

April 2020

May 2020

June 2020

July 2020

Aug. 2020

Sep. 2020

Nov. 2020

Dec. 2020

Oct. 2020

Jan. 2021

May. 2021

Feb. 2021

March 2021

April 2021

Aug. 2021

June 2021

July 2021

Aug. 2021

Sept. 2021

From ports to rail yards, global supply lines struggle amid virus outbreaks in the developing world

The L.A.-Long Beach port complex is the principal gateway for products that American consumers and businesses buy from Asia. It is also Exhibit A for the supply chain issues that are dogging the economic recovery.

Ship placements are approximations based on satellite imagery and placed manually. Clouds and other imagery issues can result in undercounts.

David Lynch contributed to this report.

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