By Don Ford

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – If you’re on the Bay Bridge looking south, thinking there are a lot of ships in port, you’re right. The bay has become crowded with cargo ships, with no place to dock.

The Coast Guard calls it Anchorage Nine, it’s a parking lot for ships where they wait for an open berth to unload and load.

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It is as crowded as it has been in years. There are 24 spaces, 19 are in use.

A cargo ship waiting to dock at the Port of Oakland. (CBS)

A cargo ship waiting to dock at the Port of Oakland. (CBS)

Port of Oakland spokesperson Robert Bernardo said the problem starts far from here.

“It’s full because of the congestion that is happening down in Southern California ports, the ports of L.A. and Long Beach. If you look out into their harbor, there’s between 50 and 60 vessels waiting to berth,” Bernardo told KPIX 5.

Many of those ships are rescheduling to unload here in Oakland. It’s a complicated and serious job to keep all these ship safe and not bump into each other when the tide changes. The Coast Guard keeps a digital radar watch on all of them 24/7.

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Adding to the wait, the Port of Oakland just took delivery of new cranes, which are not in service yet.

“The tallest cranes in North America came here and we’re down one berth as that are assembling the cranes,” said Bernardo.

Port of Oakland said the increased container traffic is causing bottlenecks up and down the coast, driven they say by increased amounts of home shopping during the pandemic.

“We’re looking at this as a short-term issue,” Bernardo explained. “We’re hoping the log jam clears up in the next several weeks. But really, who knows? It’s a wait and see.”

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The Coast Guard has the authority to contact inbound ships to ask them to slow down until the situation improves.