Skip to content

San Francisco South Bay Shipping News

We were talking with Drew Harper of Spinnaker Sailing San Francisco the other day, when he mentioned the 23 ships he saw anchored in the South Bay. “What’s the South Bay shipping news?” he asked. It turns out all those pandemic Peloton rides to nowhere have to come from somewhere. Surprise, they all come from China. The New York Times says we are seeing excess ships in harbors waiting to be unloaded because of pandemic changes in shopping habits and logistical logjams created by worker challenges, caused by COVID.

San Francisco South Bay Ships
While we were out sailing a couple of weeks ago we snapped this shot when all those ships caught our eye.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The New York Times reported, “Pressure built as Americans refashioned their spending. Deprived of vacations and restaurant meals, they bought video game consoles and pastry mixers. They outfitted their homes for remote work and distance learning.

“At the twin ports of Los Angeles and nearby Long Beach, unloading has been slowed by a dearth of dockworkers and truck drivers as the virus has sickened some while forcing others to quarantine.”

Long Beach Ships
When we took this shot last fall we thought, “Long Beach is always full of ships,” but maybe it was fuller than normal.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The Times quoted the Port of Oakland’s maritime director, Bryan Brandes. “‘In normal times, vessels come directly into Oakland,'” Mr. Brandes said. “’Right now, we’re ranging anywhere from seven to 11 vessels at anchorage.'” That number can certainly change as the management of the shoreside workforce fluctuates due to the pandemic.

Jeff Bezos Megayacht?
In Long Beach we thought we’d caught a shot of Jeff Bezos’ new megayacht, but it turned out to be an idled cruise ship. They can be hard to tell apart and cost about the same.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

If you’re headed out for a sail with the kids over the weekend, the large number of ships could provide a great experiential opportunity for a geography and flag lesson. You could sail between ships that are almost as big as the islands they call home — so the kids could sail to Panama, St. Vincent, the Bahamas, Malta, Cyprus or whatever else is in the mix. You could also teach them about flags of convenience, offshore banking, international liability laws, tax havens, how bananas get here, the source of all their game consoles, and other interesting lessons from the shipping industry.

Port of Oakland ZPMC
These new container cranes were delivered to the Port of Oakland from China in January, but that solves only part of the problem.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

The Times story projected that the logjam might ease up by the end of summer, though by then we’ll be heading toward the Christmas rush. In the meantime, you can expect to see an extra-large fleet of ships anchored off California shipping terminals.


  1. bruce adornato 3 years ago

    Flags of convenience is an interesting topic. Apparently it began in the 1920’s during Prohibition, when shipowners registered in Panama so they could serve alcohol. Now seems a slightly more nefarious practice of avoiding taxation and regulation in the actual home country of ownership.

  2. Capt. Bill Chase 3 years ago

    It seems to me most of these vessels are EMPTY! Especially the ones in the photo showing the boom in the picture. They are riding high.

  3. Sargeant Stan 3 years ago

    These cargo ships appear to be empty at anchor because the waterlines are so high. Is it really caused by our dockworkers not unloading cargo or is the United State holding its ships from sailing back to Asia because of COVID tensions overseas. We still don’t have a clear explanation to the mystery of how the biggest disaster of the century happened. Now, borders are firmly closed to both private and commercial maritime vessels. What’s next? Smuggling and Self-Reliance.

  4. Chris Cox 3 years ago

    looks to me that the ships riding high are tanker not cargo

Leave a Reply

Getting Kids on the Water this Summer
Sailing is an adventure. It is fun and games, but the personal growth achieved on a boat lasts a lifetime: teamwork, courage, and overcoming fears.
Sponsored Post
We will focus on getting to know your boat, maintenance, and finding your tribe to help you enjoy all the Bay has to offer.
All Tied Up
How does an inexperienced sailor learn her knots without driving her captain and fellow crew crazy, or worse, getting herself tossed overboard?