Serious global port congestion unlikely to ease in 2021 - Maersk

Serious congestion at ports across the world is unlikely to ease in the immediate future, shipping line Maersk said in a market update.

Ports in Asia Pacific continue to be severely congested. With continued high yard density and weather disruptions since July, operational challenges remain in port operations, the company said.

Vessels calling at major ports in Busan, Shanghai, Ningbo, Yantian and Auckland report over three days’ waiting time, while those in Singapore, Hong Kong, Port Klang and Sydney report one to three days’ waiting time.

Maersk expects strong export demand from Asia to continue for the rest of the year, particularly into the United States and Europe.

“Several upcoming holidays, including China’s Golden Week and Christmas, will create seasonal volume rushes. We expect to see early signs of a pre-Lunar New Year rush in December,” it said.

Re-positioning containers to meet demand
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused severe shortages in the US, Europe and Asia, disrupting sailing schedules and causing equipment shortages, especially in the key exporting countries of China and Vietnam.

“Delays due to increased demand, Covid-19 control measures, lower productivity and poor reliability are causing containers to remain in transit for longer, reducing the number of containers in circulation,” Maersk said.

Maersk is re-positioning empty containers and has tripled the number of containers in its fleet to support export requirements. However, this is insufficient and the quick turnaround of containers remains crucial, the company said.

Southern Vietnam could also see a demand surge and capacity surge in early-October once it comes out of Covid-19 factory lockdowns, Maersk said.

“Most key depots and ports are operating normally but with lower productivity. The shortage of equipment and space is worse in the north than the south due to reduced cargo volumes,” it said.

It suggested that businesses are using trucking, barge and rail methods to move containers from southern Vietnam to the north due to the escalating container shortage in northern Vietnam.

The US West Coast is also severely congested.

Congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which key loading hubs for ferrous scrap exports to Asia, is also likely to continue to deteriorate while the year-end peak demand season approaches.

“There are [more than] 70 vessels waiting at anchorage recently. Labor restrictions coupled with high throughput volumes remain the primary constraint,” Maersk said.

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