Congestion Risks and Delays at North American Ports

Industry leaders are warning that pressures on the North American container shipping system are rising, risking even greater congestion in the beginning of 2021. In November, East Coast ports were challenged with handling a 30 percent year-over-year increase in imports from Asia, but have so far been able to avoid the gridlock that is gripping the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

We are now seeing bottlenecks beginning to form outside Southeast ports, which until now have maintained fluidity. Sign of delays are noticeable with cargo stacking up at nearby warehouses, truck capacity tightening, and chassis dwells lengthening, Uffe Ostergaard, Hapag-Lloyd’s president, Americas, told in a Tuesday interview. “Average turn times and berth productivity at major US ports are under pressure, reflecting increased strain on the container shipping system,” said Ostergaard.

“It’s a different narrative here,” Sam Ruda, director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, told Tuesday, although there is tightness throughout the New York-New Jersey supply chain, including mounting container dwell times at marine terminals and chassis dwell times at warehouses.

“The gateway remains pretty fluid,” Ruda said. However, three non-vessel-operating common carriers (NVOs) said early warning signs surfacing at major East Coast gateways are similar to what they saw in Southern California this summer. The Federal Maritime Commission last month launched a fact-finding mission.

Indeed, New York-New Jersey is experiencing higher equipment dwell times during the import surge, said Bethann Rooney, deputy director of the port department. Average container dwell times at the six container terminals in New York-New Jersey are five to seven days compared with three to four days normally, while average chassis dwell times at warehouses are up to 15 days from three to four days earlier this year, she said.

East Coast ports hope to avoid the congestion that Los Angeles-Long Beach has experienced from an unprecedented spike in imports since late June. Vessel bunching, delays of several days in vessel berthing, congested marine terminals, long truck lines at terminal gates, chassis shortages owing to excessive street dwell times, and import warehouses filled beyond capacity have plagued the Southern California gateway since summer.

The situation remains very fluid. We are advising clients to do the following:

  • At a minimum add two weeks to your typical transit times.
  • Plan for congestion fees from the truckers as they spend hours in the port retrieving containers.
  • Know whether your imports are affected and decide what you’re going to do about it.

If you have a question about whether your products are affected by these delays, WB Skinner may be able to help. We can tell you what impact the delays might have on your shipments, and might be able to suggest a few options to help you to avoid delays.

Join WB Skinner at the Industry Event of the Year: 2018 NYNJ Brokers Association Dinner

I hope you will join me, our entire WB Skinner staff, and the many distinguished industry guests at the annual NY/NJ Foreign Freight Forwarders & Brokers Association on February 1 in New York City.  It is the largest event of its kind in our industry, with more than 700 attendees. I know you will want to be among them!

We will be honoring Roy Amalfitano, Vice Chairman of Evergreen Shipping Agency (America) Corp. as our 2018 Person of the Year. The award will be presented at the festive evening in the beautiful Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.

This year I also have the privilege to be President of the Association as well as a long-time member and supporter of the industry. I would be honored to have you support this great event and join us for this special occasion. For tickets, ads and sponsorship opportunities please click HERE. If you are in the importing business, you won’t want to miss it!
Bill Skinner is President of the NY/NJFFFBA Board of Directors. He has also been chairman of the Association’s Annual Awards Dinner since 2008.

GSP Expires on December 31, 2017 – What You Should Know

Once again, the Generalized System of Preferences Act (GSP) will be expiring on December 31. With no Congressional authority for renewal in sight before then, importers should be prepared to act as usual during the lapse.

The GSP Act, which provides duty-free treatment to importers of goods from designated beneficiary countries, periodically expires and must be renewed by Congress. All previous GSP renewals that have taken effect after a lapse have had a retroactive clause that provided refunds to importers of eligible goods imported during the lapse period.

What Should You Do?

Until the Act is renewed, WB Skinner encourages you to continue to flag GSP-eligible importations with the SPI “A” designation even as you pay normal trade relations (column 1) duty rates on otherwise GSP-eligible importations.   Refunds will be done directly by CBP, which this year is working towards automating the refunds to enable quicker payment.

If you are a current client of WB Skinner, you will receive your refunds automatically. Contact us for more information.

If you are not a current WB Skinner client, contact us to find out how to receive your refunds.

If you have any questions about your shipments, from how to ensure their safe and effective delivery to ensuring the most cost-efficient procedures, you can count on us to help. And we guarantee you will be greeted by one of our experienced partners, not shuttled off to a junior associate or a voice mail.

Check back at for updates or contact us for more information.