The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together account for 40% of sea freight entering the U.S., are making "significant progress" in clearing backlogs, according to a port executive, as an organization of large retailers urged additional steps by the federal government.

The “significant progress” comment was by Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach on CNBC just before the holiday.  One factor is the new fees announced last month for cargo left in port more than a few days (see "Some Good News on Supply Chain Congestion").  Since the fees were announced, cargo containers languishing in the ports have dropped by 33%, Cordero said.

Unloading ships, speeded by the implementation of round-the-clock shifts, has also improved, with 61 ships waiting off the coast to unload, compared to 111 ships just two weeks ago, according to the report.

But better is still a long way from good.  This week, the Retail industry Leaders Association, a trade association of the largest chain retailers in the U.S., including Walmart, Target, Walgreens and many others, urged the federal government to take additional actions to help clear congestion.  In the short term, the organization urged changes to the appointment systems for truckers, "…increasing the ability for the efficient return of empty containers with unrestricted acceptance of empties, requiring ocean carriers to accelerate evacuation of the tens of thousands of empty containers clogging the ports," and other changes.

The organization also urged a number of long-term improvements, including infrastructure investments and improved end-to-end data handling.