Logistic News

How supply chain congestion challenges logistics in North America ahead of shipping peak season

West Coast ports have handled record volumes of goods from Asia that increasingly face long waits to complete the journey inland due to congested rail and transportation hubs. With US warehouse availability below 3% and inventory surpluses at multi-decade highs, congestion is entrenched. Read on to get the latest insights and updates.

Saranya Senguttuvan, Kevin Doell, 12 September 2022

Here at Twill, we want to give you the latest and most valuable information on the global supply chain to help your day-to-day business. So, let’s dive into the latest news and trends in the North American market.

What's impacting logistics in North America ahead of peak shipping season?

Port labour disputes in the U.S. and Europe continue to create uncertainty: The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association are continuing their negotiations. However, a tentative agreement was reached on health benefits. While the contract expired July 1, both parties have pledged to keep working at US West Coast ports while negotiations shift to operational issues. Across the Atlantic, major Northern European terminals have been subject to frequent strike actions, which have resulted in some service disruptions in the Transatlantic shipping services that have become an alternative route into the US from Asia for shippers looking to avoid congested West Coast ports.

What are the ocean freight updates in North America ahead of peak shipping season?

Ocean container volumes continue to flow at substantial rates into the US West and East Coasts as shippers have been proactively pulling a great deal of inventory forward to mitigate the impact of potential delays in the run-up to peak shipping season. The Port of Long Beach reported its busiest July ever. Gene Seroka, Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles, said that July was one of the “best on record” with improved cargo throughput. From a peak of 109 cargo ships waiting to enter San Pedro Bay in January 2022, the current number of ships in the immediate vicinity has been worked down to around 8. In all, 49 ships are heading towards the bay.

Meanwhile, congestion has continued to build on US Gulf Coast and East Coast ports, as well as inland and rail terminals, impacting overall supply chain fluidity. There is a possibility that this congestion could increase during the peak shipping season. As we experience a high number of existing import containers on terminals, building numbers of empty containers hindering operations, and long wait times for access to inland rail and other transportation resources.

We advise you to ensure timely pick-up of your import cargo as it is critical to alleviating terminal congestion, which benefits all stakeholders who depend on an efficient and fluid supply chain for their businesses.

The Upside of Timely Cargo Retrieval

Interested in learning more? We put together an explainer on demurrage and detention for you here.

Interested in learning more? We put together an explainer on demurrage and detention for you.

Vessel Waiting Times at Key Shipping Locations in North America

West Coast

Overall vessel wait times for LA now sit between 0-3 days, with wait times of 5 days for Long Beach. Access to timely rail service continues to be a challenge. Overall rail dwell is 11.9 days in LA. Approximately 50% of our network’s longstanding cargo units dwelling on terminals for 14 or more days are in the Pacific Southwest ports.

Pacific Northwest

We continue to face operational challenges in Vancouver due to schedule changes implemented by Centerm. We are experiencing longer than usual vessel wait times for Transpacific services TP1 and TP9, as well as additional delays for the rail traffic due to the lack of space to discharge containers. While the situation remains fluid, we will continue to share updated Customer Advisories regarding the situation at Centerm, allowing our customers to plan more effectively.

East Coast

For several months, Transpacific market activity and robust Transatlantic trade have driven East Coast congestion. As a result, port congestion remains, and there have been delays in Transatlantic Services between North America and Northern Europe.

Vessel wait times are running 1-2 weeks in Newark PNCT, 2-5 days at APM Terminals Elizabeth, 2-18 days for Houston down in the Gulf, and 9-17 days in Savannah, where 40 ships are at anchorage, six of which are Maersk vessels. To ease this congestion, we are arranging for extra gap loader ships in September where feasible for the East Coast.

The disruptions experienced on the North American and Northern European networks have required adjustments to our Transatlantic services, including resetting schedules. We are adding extra vessels to help reduce the time between departures. The extra vessels will avoid heavily congested terminals, such as Newark PNCT, and enable booking diversions to alternative locations such as Norfolk or Baltimore when possible.

For all gateways, we ask you to provide your continued support in prioritizing the pickup of ageing cargo as we work together with our terminal and rail partners to restore fluidity in operations for a more reliable supply chain.

Vessel wait times at key North American gateways continue to be impacted by congestion, labour, and dwelling volumes.

Inland Warehousing News: “Just in Case” Inventory Management Driving Warehouse Space Availability to Historical Lows

According to real estate services firm CBRE, the vacancy rate for warehouses across the US is down to 2.9%, a drop from 7.7% a decade ago. In the Pacific Southwest, where 40% of America’s imported cargo enters the country, warehouse vacancy rates have dipped even lower — to around 0.5%.

Having been caught short using long-practised “just-in-time” strategies, retailers have responded to supply chain bottlenecks with “just-in-case” ordering strategies. This approach seeks to ensure stocks will be on hand when and where today’s demanding consumers want them. However, the net result of this shift has meant that warehouse capacity has become even more scarce. Complicating matters is that retailers placed these large orders many months ago, thinking the pandemic boom would continue. In the interim, consumer spending shifted back to services while also slowing due to inflated prices. The result has been inventory surplus levels at multi-decade highs.

Customers looking to navigate the current challenges of today’s warehouse and distribution landscape are encouraged to plan and communicate with your supply chain partners well in advance. Additional warehousing capacity is under construction around the country but not at the pace needed to alleviate the immediate supply chain pressures. Furthermore, today’s six to nine months lead times to get inventories to market shelves are nearly double pre-pandemic planning cycles. This rapidly evolving economy makes today’s forecasting decisions for next year’s markets particularly challenging. Finally, review inventory ageing reports thoroughly to identify any stocks approaching a disposition decision point.

How to Prepare Your Supply Chain for an “Above Normal” Hurricane Season ahead of Shipping Peak Season

Extreme weather continues to impact supply chains globally. Scientists are predicting an above-normal hurricane season for the seventh consecutive year. Shippers should understand their risks, review their plans, and be prepared for possible supply disruptions. Here is how you can prepare the business for hurricane season:

Address these key actions today to mitigate the risks of the coming hurricane season.

Address these key actions today to mitigate the risks of the coming hurricane season.

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