Terminal Congestion and Import Service Delays

As we are sure you are aware, many importers (and exporters!) are experiencing continued and growing supply chain challenges.  Persistent port and rail ramp congestion, container chassis shortages, excessive detention and demurrage fees from carriers, and upheaval among air cargo service providers are all contributing to this mess.

As a client or associate of WB Skinner, we want to keep you informed of the current situation and provide you with the following updates.

Terminal Delays

Most terminals are experiencing moderate to severe congestion issues and delays. Unprecedented high volumes essentially everywhere, critical labor and equipment shortages, and reduction in yard space and downstream warehousing capacity are all contributing to this backup.

  • On the East Coast, NY/NJ vessels are averaging wait times of up to two days, while Savannah can expect delays of 2-4 days and the remainder of the East Coast Ports project delays from four to as long as 16 days.  
  • West Coast vessel arrival waiting times range between 26-38 days. Imports into smaller ports such as Seattle and Oakland should expect delays from 3-15 days.
  • In the Gulf, Houston wait times are up to 10 days, and can be further compounded by weather events.

Warehouse and Storage Capacity

While the log jams at West Coast ports have gotten much media attention, a glut of containers is stacking up at the ports, indicative of one of the newest struggles in our supply chain. 

For the year to August, imports at the port of New York and New Jersey were 26.4 per cent higher than for the same period in 2020. The warehouses where those container loads would normally head first before being distributed are struggling to meet the unprecedented demand. According to the Financial Times, warehouse operators problems are compounded as they face shortages of everything they need to run their facilities efficiently, from racks and balers to forklift trucks and staff.

Equipment Shortages

Unprecedented chassis shortages continue in essentially all major terminals, including New York/New Jersey, Los Angeles/Long Beach, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Columbus, Cleveland, Chicago, Memphis, Atlanta, Nashville, and Louisville.

Additional equipment availability remains an issue at Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Detroit, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Memphis, Nashville, Omaha, St. Louis, South Florida, and Seattle.

WB Skinner at Your Side

Unprecedented challenges are all-encompassing, affecting ports, carriers, railroads, and trucking throughout the United States. As the front-line representative of your supply chain, please be assured that we will do our very best to help your business successfully navigate through this difficult period.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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 JOC.com 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 JOC.com 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.