Truck shipping

US ports see shipping congestion likely to extend through 2022

Executives at some of the busiest U.S. ports expect shipping gateway congestion to continue over the next year, as the crash of goods from manufacturers and retailers seeking to replenish depleted stocks pushes back the usual seasonal lulls in shipping.

Ports are already overwhelmed with a record number of containers reaching U.S. shores during this year’s peak shipping season, and the number of ships waiting for a berth at the gates of Southern California is increasing to as congestion spreads in warehouses and distribution networks across the country.

Port executives, such as Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, Calif., Who have spoken to shipping companies and their freight customers, say the slowdown in container volumes that typically coincides with the Lunar New Year in February, when factories in China usually shut down, it is unlikely to offer much relief.

“I do not see any substantial easing of the congestion experienced by major container ports,” Cordero said. “A lot of people think this will continue until the summer of 2022.”

Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, which operates one of the nation’s largest ocean bridges at the Port of Savannah, said: “We believe that at least midway through 2022 or all of 2022 could be very strong. ”

Major US ports are expected to handle the equivalent of some 2.37 million imported containers in August, according to the Global Port Tracker report produced by Hackett Associates for the National Retail Federation. The figure is the highest for any month in records dating back to 2002, and NRF projects, aggregate inbound volumes for the year will reach 25.9 million containers, measured in 20-foot equivalent units. This would break the record of 22 million boxes in 2020.

Ports have become one of the many bottlenecks in global supply chains, as ships fill up with boxes carrying electronics, household furniture, holiday decorations and other goods.

Hundreds of thousands of containers are stranded aboard container ships awaiting a berth or stacked in terminals waiting to be moved by truck or train to inland terminals, warehouses and centers. distribution. When cartons are on the move, they are often scolded at overcrowded freight stations and warehouses that are jam-packed.

Bob Biesterfield, Managing Director of CH Robinson Worldwide Inc.

the largest freight broker in North America, said shortages of truck drivers and warehouse workers are worsening shipping delays as the need to replenish inventory is at an all time high. “I don’t think this is something that will be sorted out in the next four to five months in accordance with the Lunar New Year,” he said.

Congestion has contributed to a global shortage of shipping containers and skyrocketing ocean freight costs. The stalemate prompted the Biden administration to appoint a port envoy last month to determine how to improve the movement of goods amid complaints from U.S. companies facing inventory shortages, shipping delays and delays. increasing costs.

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Congestion was worse at the nearby ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which account for more than a third of all U.S. maritime imports. Forty or more ships have waited at anchor off the coast on any day in recent weeks, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, a pandemic-era record. Before the pandemic, a single vessel at anchor was unusual.

Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said oceanfront congestion could worsen as the peak holiday shipping season continues. The port has broken container handling records for 13 consecutive months. Mr Seroka said the terminals expect to process 35% more inbound containers the week starting September 5 and 80% more inbound containers the following week compared to the same periods last year.

The surge is due to Americans shifting their spending from services, such as restaurants and vacations, to home improvements, office equipment and other consumer goods. Port officials say importers are also stocking up on additional inventory after shortcomings in just-in-time supply chains were exposed in the first weeks of the pandemic.

Sam Ruda, port director for the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, said the traffic jams could only end when the Covid-19 pandemic ends. “This is really what will inform the duration of what we see on the pitch today,” he said.

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Write to Paul Berger at [email protected]

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