LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Cargo ships continue to arrive off the coast of Southern California, and the shipping bottleneck may be why product prices are going up, even though shelves remain empty.

(credit: CBS)

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Officials say there could be as many as half a million shipping containers on cargo ships off the ports of LA and Long Beach, waiting to be offloaded. Frustrated truck drivers say the port needs to speed up wait times and have more docks ready to offload products, to keep up with demands.

The ports recently broke several records for the number of ships they had at shore, as well as for the number of ships waiting to dock.

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A number of factors are blamed for the bottleneck – the surge of the Delta variant throughout the world, lack of access to vaccines in some countries, a shortage of shipping containers, and another of truck drivers. Companies like Costco have been forced to charter their own container ships, but smaller companies hare having to pay higher freight charges. And most experts expect the shipping problems for months, and possibly years.

There has been some calls for lifting tariffs that the Trump administration put in place, but there are some misgivings about how much that would help.

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“Lifting tariffs clearly won’t undue all the lines at LA Long Beach,” said Phil Levy, chief economist at freight forwarding company Flexport. “But what it would do is make life easier for groups that had had a very hard time recently.”