A Perfect Storm at the Ports

Importers have been experiencing unprecedented service disruption around the world but especially in the TransPacific. We are living through a period of record high rates, chassis shortages at US ports, equipment shortages at origin loading ports and severe congestion at both Asia and US ports. All of this creating a perfect storm of issues, causing massive delays to supply chains and adding costs for importers along the way.

Unfortunately, things are not expected to improve in the short term. Ocean carriers are cancelling sailings due to the long delays experienced at discharge ports in North America. This causes ships to arrive back to China severely delayed. Several vessels will be cancelled during week 48 to US West Coast ports (USWC) due to this issue. The same phenomenon has occurred at some Canadian ports (namely Prince Rupert) due to severe congestion there as well. This will only add to the already widespread space constraints as booking backlogs in China grow.

Delays of 7 to 14 days above scheduled transit times have become the norm. It is likely that in some cases even longer delays will be experienced. This is especially true on transshipment routes as a compounding effect of delays hit due to congestion at multiple points along the way. Shanghai specifically has seen delays up to 8 to 10 days due to berth congestion as vessels are delayed significantly on return from USWC ports. Worse, delays on scheduled arrivals at USWC have been reported to be up to 18 days in some cases.

Equipment shortages are also becoming more acute. Recently the port of Shanghai was completely lacking of 40 and 40HC equipment, causing further delays and forcing importers to switch loading plans by using alternate equipment such as 20’ and 45’ containers.

During this time of extraordinary congestion, all cargo tendered to carriers is subject to roll. This means that cargo tendered for shipment on a given vessel may be shifted to a later vessel at carrier discretion. Carriers are typically offering a “premium service” option at an additional cost of $1200-$1750/container to secure guaranteed space without the possibility of roll. Cargo moving on premium service is still subject to the same congestion-related vessel delays and equipment challenges. It is simply not subject to roll. This service can be requested at time of booking. Please note: Worldwide Logistics Group in no way endorses or benefits from carriers’ practice of charging these extra fees for guarantee of “no roll”; however, we are compelled to keep all of our customers informed of all available options.

We recommend advance booking of at least two weeks on all shipments, both regular and premium service.

Worldwide Logistics Group will keep all well informed with regard to these challenges and continue to offer the best possible solutions during this difficult time. There may be some relief when the pre-holiday season shipping surge in the United States is concluded; however, full resolution of these issues will likely not happen until after Chinese New Year.