Congestion Hits Asian Ports

Congestion at ports across Asia is creating havoc with shipping schedules, forcing a major intra-Asia specialist to cancel rotations as it battles lengthy delays, according to the Journal of Commerce.  Robert Sallons, managing director of Cheng Lie Navigation Co. (CNC Line) advised the  affected ports  are Incheon, Korea, Qingdao and Shanghai  China, Hong Kong and Cat Lai in Vietnam.  “We operate with a 21-day port rotation, but lose up to 12 days in Manila alone, so by the time we get to Cat Lai we are already bumping into the next rotation. Wait times in Hong Kong are 18 to 36 hours. It means we are forced to lose one rotation every 21 days,” he said.

One reason for the congestion at the big gateway ports is that larger capacity  ships bring in more containers and  take longer to unload/load.  Other issues being faced by the ports included dense fog in Korea and northern China, monsoon rain and regular typhoons in the Philippines, and poor terminal design. The ports of Keelung, Incheon, Cat Lai, and Hong Kong’s Kwai Chung have limited space and can not cope efficiently with increasing volumes.

Manila’s port congestion worsened after the municipal government imposed a daytime truck ban in February in an attempt to clear the Philippine capital’s notorious gridlock. This resulted in  bringing the port to a standstill while doing little to free up the streets. Michel Azrak, general manager of CMA CGM Philippines, said the average  time for import cargo at the port of Manila was now 12 days.

The Philippines Ports Authority this week ordered shippers with customs-cleared containers that had been in port for 30 to 90 days  to collect their boxes or they would be shipped out to the ports of Batangas and Subic. Effective Oct. 1, all cargo cleared by port authorities that are not pulled out within the prescribed five-day period will be fined P5,000 per day, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said. Another measure being implemented at  the Port of Manila is 24-hour last mile truck routes (dedicated truck lanes) will be implemented for a two-week period. Azrak stated that ” they  don’t expect an improvement for at least another four months because customers will all start receiving their Christmas orders and early next year the Chinese New Year rush will begin.”

Persistent congestion has also clogged major gateway ports in the U.S. and Europe, where it is raising a debate about whether it’s just peak-season volumes causing delays  or the inability of ports to handle the sharp growth in container ship sizes. Nearly half of all post-Panamax ships saw delays of 12 hours or more at North and South American ports in July, according to a recent study released by CargoSmart.

RCL will continue to monitor the situation and will advise any further updates.