Logistics News

North America Update: What’s the Transpacific shipping situation of current capacity and congestion issues

While the shipping situation faces different challenges due to Covid-19, port congestions, tropical storms and container shortages, we give you an update on the condition in North America.

Lorena Fullone, 21 September 2021

As we enter what would typically be defined as the annual peak season period, not much is expected to change in terms of available capacity and the general levels of congestion across the global supply chain networks. 

Nevertheless, the COVID-19 outbreaks remain a challenge across different countries. For example, in Asia, the Vietnamese Government extends lockdown, while factory closures in Malaysia and Indonesia have become common. An example is what happened with the port closure at the Ningbo Meishan terminal in the early parts of August, which triggered a spike in congestion levels across the Eastern provinces of China.

Additionally, Tropical Storm Ida affected parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida with high winds, heavy rain, and the threat of tornadoes. This has resulted in port closures and supply chain disruptions throughout different areas, such as the Port of New Orleans. The operations continued on September 7, nine days after the hurricane's landfall. But let’s look closely at North American shipping and see what’s happening in some of the ports:

Peak seasons are impacting the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach congestion levels continue to deteriorate as we move further into peak season. Wait times have now increased to the 11-15-day range, with 40-45 vessels waiting at anchorage at any given point. Labour restrictions coupled with high volume throughput remains the primary constraint.

Congestion and low capacity at Port of Savannah and Seattle

  • Port of Savannah has become a significant challenge in recent weeks, with wait times over five days and congestion across the East Coast picks up. There are now 25 vessels at anchorage awaiting a berth with wait times upwards of 7 days.

  • Port of Seattle continues to struggle with available yard capacity. As a result, Terminal 18 (T18), which usually runs 6 to 7 cranes per shift across three berths, has had to reduce down to 3-5 cranes as there is simply no room for discharged containers. This situation has increased wait times to the 11-12-day mark and doubled the standard port stay from 3 days to about a week. 

Shipping container shortage in North America, Europe and Asia

As long-standing containers in North America and Europe continue to rise, so does the severity of their shortages across the Asia-Pacific. In-fleeting new containers alone are no longer enough to meet the overall demand, so it remains critically important that imported ones are turned around as quickly as possible.

While we remain dependent on the empty import returns from customers, a combination of other factors worsens the situation, such as rail and port congestions and lack of trucking. We see more and more vessels return to light, mainly when calling the US West Coast and the empty returns continue to slow down. The situation in the Midwest is not better, as rail yards struggle with surging import volumes and a lack of yard space, and all of this has resulted in many rails decreasing daily empty allocations.

We will continue to push for more flexibility on empty returns at port and rail terminal locations to better support you, our Twill customers, with empty return efforts. Please ensure, where possible, you are utilizing weekend gates and any available alternative return locations so we can keep cargo and containers moving.

What does Twill do to keep you updated on the situation in the Transpacific?

While we are doing our best to find solutions to improve the current situation, the above challenges, for now, cannot be modified entirely. As such, we will continue to update you on the impacts and any potential relief in the coming weeks and months. If you search for tips and tricks on how you can elevate the current situation, check our latest US trucking update.

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