Ocean Freight Port

Ports Get Congestion Aid However It Could Be Solely Momentary

U.S. ports are lastly getting a time frame to get well from the unyielding demand and congestion that has plagued them since 2020. Nonetheless, there are some things that would make the reduction short-lived: potential labor slowdowns from contentious ILWU contract negotiations, easing of Chinese language lockdowns, and the approaching peak season. Alternatively, skyrocketing inflation might maintain demand in test, making the cargo ranges transferring by means of the ports manageable. If solely inflation wasn’t in any other case so damaging.

Port Congestion Information

Congestion hasn’t fully gone away at U.S. ports. There are terminals, and even ports, that haven’t seen enchancment but, however issues have gotten higher total. Greg Miller supplied information in an American Shipper article revealed yesterday on the topic:

There have been solely 25 container ships ready to berth within the ports of Los Angeles and Lengthy Seashore on Friday, in accordance with information from the Marine Change of Southern California. That’s the bottom tally since July 28, 2021. As of Wednesday, there have been 28 ships ready. Present numbers are far under the all-time excessive of 109 ships ready on Jan. 9.

The discount within the Los Angeles/Lengthy Seashore ship queue is partially attributable to cargo being redirected to East Coast ports. But even East Coast ports are down from peaks.

In late February, ship-position information from MarineTraffic confirmed 70 container ships ready offshore of East and Gulf Coast ports. By mid-Could, the rely had fallen to 45.

As of Wednesday, it had climbed again as much as 58. Site visitors jams off Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina, are down. The largest queues now are off New York/New Jersey — 17 container ships — and Savannah, Georgia, the place 25 vessels are ready. Savannah’s numbers are the principle driver of the current East Coast uptick in current days; Hapag-Lloyd reported solely seven ships at anchor there on Friday.

Fewer Ships… However Why?

Whereas ships ready at anchor should not the one type or indicator of congestion ranges on the ports, the drop in ship queues is critical. Some drop got here from blanked (cancelled) sailings of ships from main lockdowns, significantly of Shanghai, in China. Some trade consultants fear that with the easing of the outrageous “Covid Zero” lockdowns in China, extra shipments – and ships carrying them – will head again to the U.S., inflicting the queues of ships ready to dock to extend once more.

Actually, Miller factors out {that a} leap in trans-Pacific shipments has simply taken place:

Sea-Intelligence mentioned that provided trans-Pacific capability jumped 21% from 535,200 twenty-foot equal items for departures within the week of Could 15-21 to 646,500 TEUs this week.

We should always see these shipments arrive at U.S. ports in late June. Miller identified how final 12 months noticed ship queues drop by means of the third week of June, solely to rise once more thereafter. It’s potential we could possibly be about to see the identical factor right here in 2022.

China & Peak Season

There does are typically a rise in shipments on the finish of June as a result of that’s when peak season actually tends to ramp up, with shippers importing items for the again to high school and vacation purchasing seasons.

Hopefully, the ports will reap the benefits of the second they’re in proper now to clear as a lot congestion as potential earlier than the lifting of Chinese language lockdowns and peak season transport mix to extend cargo motion by means of them.

Dockworkers Union

There’s a large amount of uncertainty within the transport trade proper now as to how effectively cargo will transfer this summer time. The Worldwide Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Affiliation (PMA) simply yesterday resumed negotiations for a brand new contract for West Coast dockworkers. That is after negotiations had been suspended on the ILWU’s behest and the events’ combat over automation went public within the lead-up to the negotiations.

We’ve been warning on this weblog for a very long time that negotiations are more likely to develop into contentious over the automation problem. Many shippers have heeded that warning from us and others, transferring their cargo forward of the height season to keep away from any potential disruption that could possibly be brought on by labor slowdowns, strikes, or lockouts that would occur on account of contentious negotiations.

The overall degree of congestion that has been current at ports has additionally brought about some shippers to attempt to get forward and transfer what would usually be peak-season-shipped items early.


Early motion of products and decreased demand due to inflation might make this peak season much less robust than it’d in any other case be. Nonetheless, that doesn’t imply there received’t nonetheless be a peak season surge, and the 21% elevated capability leap Sea-Intelligence recorded is probably going simply the beginning of it.

If issues do flip bitter within the newly resumed contract negotiations, we might see a triple whammy of that combining with a launch of Chinese language exports and the peaks season to return port congestion proper again to the bottlenecking mess for provide chains we’ve been seeing because the U.S. authorities locked individuals down and threw stimulus checks at them, leading to a items demand increase that the ports had been under no circumstances able to deal with.

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